Future of Warm Mineral Springs is uncertain
Warm Mineral Springs is set to re-open mid march, but the future of what it will look like is uncertain.
The 61 acres surrounding warm mineral springs could look very different if the city moves forward with a proposed private public partnership. Many North Port residents fear that would change the springs forever.
In 2019 the city of North Port established a plan for the Warm Mineral Springs Park with input from the community.
“The original plan really called for a lot of low impact amenities like nature trails, restaurant, I believe a small outdoor space, potentially primitive camp sites," said North Port resident David Iannotti.
The new proposal would be partially funded by a private partner and include a 250 room hotel and nearly 400 private residences.
This has Iannotti concerned for the wildlife, among other things.
"That spring flow actually feeds Salt Creek which is a manatee habitat and cold water refuge that FWC says is the most important in Southwest Florida. They’ve documented 125 manatees in the creek,” said Iannotti.
City Manager Jerome Fletcher says environmental studies will have to be conducted before any potential development begins.
“We do have an environmentalist on our board who is very strong and passionate about the balance that we keep with our trees and the development that we’re doing. We as a staff included information and aspects about it in our RFP," said Fletcher.
North Port residents have organized rallies against the new proposal the past few months.
Fletcher says the city will listen to all concerns.
“We do want to have a more thorough and comprehensive and robust discussion with our community to show the pros and cons with what this could mean for them and what this could mean for our city,” said Fletcher.
“It's considered a natural oasis and a health and well being destination so a lot of people believe the type of development being proposed is out of character,” said Iannotti.
Florida Fish and Wildlife says they will continue to monitor the plans and review any future permits for proposed development activities to ensure natural resources, including critical manatee warm-water habitat, are protected.