ALACHUA COUNTY - The Parks & Recreation Division of the Public Works Department of Alachua County, in conjunction with a team of consultants from the University of Florida, is working to develop the Countywide Waterways Master Plan to guide the management of the County's water bodies as population and waterways use increase.
The UF consultants are now gathering information and soliciting public input to assist the County in developing this plan. During February and March, the University of Florida Waterways Master Plan Team will contact residents to assess their recreational water use needs and desires using a scientifically designed survey.
Contacts include urban and rural residents, boaters, and shore-side residents from throughout the County. Those persons contacted are urged to complete the telephone survey so that the final master plan reflects a cross section of County residents.
The surveys aim is to determine if residents use Alachua County waterways, and if so how. The surveys also assess what water activities they engage in, when, and in which water bodies.
The survey is an opportunity for residents to identify problems or issues they have concerning the waterways and to suggest solutions.
During 2006, the consultants met with 16 waterways stakeholder groups to determine their uses of the waterways. They also met with representatives of government and regulatory agencies to seek input into the research project. Information gathered during these meetings was valuable in preparing a preliminary assessment of waterways uses and issues and provided a foundation for the development of the scientific survey.
The primary goal of the Countywide Waterways Master Plan is to insure that the County's natural water resources continue to provide enjoyable and productive experiences for residents, recreational users, and commercial users. The plan will also provide a blueprint for safe and sustainable use of the waterways now and in the future.
Since 1999, boat registrations in the county have increased by more than 18 percent to nearly 11,000. The County ranks eighth among Florida's 32 interior counties in the number of registered boats and first in registered canoes. These rankings do not reflect the large number of boaters from outside the County who use the waterways.
During the yearlong project, scheduled for completion in the summer of 2007, the UF researcher’s responsibilities will include:
- A combination of conducting stakeholder meetings with residents and waterways users and collecting surveys to determine how stakeholders view and use the waterways
- Studying the characteristics of County waterways using geographic information system mapping data to determine optimum and compatible uses
- Reviewing laws and regulations that affect uses of Florida's waterways
- Preparing a master plan for waterways management and use, with input from stakeholders
- Presenting the Countywide Waters Master Plan options and recommendations to the Alachua County Commission for approval and implementation
The UF team is based both in the UF Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management and at the Florida Sea Grant. Florida Sea Grant is a partnership among the Florida Board of Education, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Florida's citizens, industries, and governments. The team includes researchers with expertise in natural resource planning and management, recreational boating and waterways management, law, mediation, and communication.
Public input is an essential part of this project. Waterways users and residents have provided valuable information during stakeholder meetings. Another avenue for public input is the consulting team's website, at www.alachuawaterways.org
, where a calendar of events and an online web-based survey is posted. The e-mail address for the consulting group is firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please contact Larry Schnell 336-6920, Bob Swett, Ph.D., (352) 392-6233 or Robert Avery, Alachua County Parks Superintendent – (352) 374-5245