Silver Springs theme park closes before reopening as state park

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Sunday was the last day to visit the Silver Springs theme park in Marion County before it officially becomes a state park.

The park will be closed until the end of September while crews complete major renovations before it reopens as a state park.

The State of Florida owns the park but has been leasing it to private owners since the 1990s. The owners decided to end their lease, leaving the state to take over park operations. But officials quickly decided the entertainment rides and exotic animals had to go in order to make the theme park more of a state park.

"My first time here I was 12. I came with my grandparents and it was such a great memory," park guest Darlene Tillander said.

Tillander is looking forward to the future of what is currently Florida's oldest tourist attraction. Officials announced they would not do away with the park's most popular attraction, the glass-bottom boats.

"They're fun and you can see the fish and the turtles," guest Carli Eicoff said.

The state is funding $3.5 million in renovation projects at the park, including clearing out algae and pollutants in the river.

"The water doesn't just start from here, it comes from many other places and comes out from here," Park Manager Sally Lieb said.

When it reopens as a state park on October 1, admission will be $5 per car. Prices for boat rides, which are currently $13 per adult, haven't been determined yet.