If state takes over Silver Springs, some attractions could be cut

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. - For 150 years, tourists have flocked to Silver Springs in Marion County, but some believe the attraction isn't what it used to be.

"They have seen what's there, and it hasn't been maintained to the level I'd like to see it maintained," said environmentalist Guy Marwick, who applauds a state park takeover.

A basic plan that has been drawn up indicates the California company that currently runs the attraction is willing to end its lease.

When the state takes control, some things, like the famous glass bottom boats, which have been in area since 1878, would remain.

But other attractions would are on the chopping block, officials said.

Many residents love the wild animal attractions, but the state's plan would remove them, along with the amusement rides.

It's a move Marion County resident Barbara Hartshorn opposes.

"When I take my grandchildren over there, that's one spot we do go to," she said. "The bears and monkeys and all that stuff, more than the adult stuff."

Silver Springs has about 100 employees, but 300 are hired to work during the height of the annual concert season.

Those points were not addressed in the park system proposal. 

But supporters of the takeover say the state could help those workers find new jobs and would take steps to protect the water quality at the park and either remodel or demolish outdated buildings.  

And Marwick thinks the state will do a much better job of cleaning up and maintaining the park.

"When the state park gets in there and spruces everything up, it's going to get nothing but better," he said.