In 1999, FORS began a long-term Partnership in Parks (PIP) project with the Florida State Park Service to renovate the existing historic gardens of the park. This PIP project provided a 60/40 matching grant of funds to FORS. The first phase of the project involved developing a master garden plan. With the plan approved, FORS moved forward to the second phase of the project and the actual renovation began.
The renovations goal was to help address the decline of water quality and the impact of fertilizers and pesticides on the Rainbow River by demonstrating how native plants along with non-invasive ornamentals (such as existing azaleas and camellias) can provide an attractive garden area that attracts wildlife. The garden renovation was completed in 2009 with the construction of two garden kiosks, one along the main entrance walkway to the park and the second at the entrance of the gardens. In total, $300,000 in state grant funds and matching funds from FORS made the project possible.
Fundraising for the gardens continues today as we strive to keep thee areas from being reclaimed by Mother Nature. The invasive vines and unwelcome exotic plants are a continuous problem and require a regular maintenance schedule. FORS helps support the maintenance through the funding of a landscape contract.
Below are some of the things FORS has purchased for the park. The profits from our gift shop make these purchases possible.
To preserve the headsprings waterways and the state park lands which surround such, motorboats are prohibited from moving into these sanctuary areas and swimming is limited to specified boundaries within the springs. An electric powered patrol boat, which is maintained and operated by specially certified volunteers, is utilized to assure that these general rules of the headsprings are observed by all guests entering the area. Patrol boat captains also assist in monitoring changes in the waterway and banks and assist other efforts as necessary. The efforts of the patrol boat operators are essential, especially during periods of high-volume on the river.