Silver Springs in Ocala, one of the oldest “theme” parks in Central Florida, is reverting to a State Park. Owned by the state since 1992, its 242 acres will formally become part of the Silver River State Park on October 1, 2013.
The planned re-opening on October 1, 2013 has been delayed after unforeseen problems have been encountered.
Silver Springs became a tourist attraction back in the 1860s when steamboats would bring tourists to visit the beautiful crystal clear waters. The first glass-bottom boat rides were introduced in 1878.
It’s waters were so clear that scenes from over two dozen Hollywood films were filmed there including Tarzan and James Bond movies plus The Creature From the Black Lagoon. In recent years, the springs have suffered badly because of water extraction, algae and chemical pollution from both nitrates and the many introduced animals.
It had always been the intention to revert the Springs back to their natural state after its purchase by the Florida State in 1992 but the current lease with Palace Entertainment was not due to expire until 2029.
Run since 2001 by Palace Entertainment, Silver Springs will most likely lose its exotic animals, petting zoo, jeep safari ride and other amusements but will retain its famous glass-bottom boat rides and the series of outdoor music concerts. It will also offer hiking and camping opportunities.
It is unclear at this time, what will become of the Wild Waters water park across the road.
New admission charges have yet to be announced but existing passes will be honoured until they expire.
Fate of other Florida Attractions
Many of Florida’s original attractions such as Cypress Gardens, Weeki Wachi Springs and now Silver Springs have succumbed to the onslaught of new Interstate highways and theme parks like Disney and Universal.
Cypress Gardens lives on as Legoland Florida and Weeki Wachi Springs became a State Park in 2008 but managed to retain its famous mermaids.