Last updateTue, 24 Nov 2015 12am


Alachua’s Legacy Park - Master Plan Adopted


Q - Legacy Park 2015-10-26ALACHUA – The Alachua City Commission unanimously approved on Monday the implementation of a master plan to construct a large city park adjacent to the Hal Brady Recreation Complex.

The City of Alachua purchased the 105-acre parcel in 2012 with this intention. The parcel had previously been approved for a 200-home residential community.

The Legacy Park Master Plan proposes four phases of construction that would include two regulation-size baseball fields, two Little League fields, tennis courts, a multi-purpose center, two game fields, a tournament field with stadium seating, an amphitheater with stage, a disc golf course, two dog parks, and walking trails.

Elisabeth Manley, a landscape architect Buford Davis and Associates, estimated the cost for the entire park to be between $19.7 to $20 million.

“We want to integrate Legacy Park with Hal Brady to create one park,” she said.

Manley also stated that the first phase of construction would focus on creating the main entrance off of Peggy Road along with building the approximately 36,000 square foot multi-purpose center.

She said the estimation for Phase I costs is $9 million.

Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari said the City is soliciting proposals for construction documents for Phase I, with target dates for design completion set for February 2016 and start of construction for April 2016.

The initial design of the multi-purpose center calls for a single space of nearly 26,000 square feet to hold four basketball courts with motorized bleachers seating 460 people.

Some of the proposed walking trails would also be included in Phase I, trails that Manley said would eventually cover over one mile after the park’s completion.

The other four construction phases are not yet prioritized but are instead temporarily labeled as Phase North, Phase South and Phase West.

Phase North includes the baseball and Little League fields as well as the tennis courts; Phase South the game and tournament fields and amphitheater with stage; and Phase West the dog parks, disc golf course and additional walking trails.

During commission discussion, Mayor Gib Coerper voiced concern that approving the master plan might commit future Alachua City Commissions to an undesired course of action.

“We’re not talking about [park completion] tomorrow or next week – this is years,” he said. “Are we going to bind future commissions?”

Assistant City Manager Boukari assured Coerper that any commission could decide to change any portion of the plan whenever desired.

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Alachua County: In Contrast - Communities in Profile

LakeMG 1645

Civilization seems distant after a hike to Itchy Bottom Lake in the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, yet less than a mile away resides Progress Corporate Park, home to some of Alachua County’s fastest-growing businesses.

This dichotomy within the City of Alachua is a microcosm of the competing priorities that have existed within the county for at least the last 300 years.

The Alachua County Today begins a series profiling county communities with an overview of the county as a whole.

To understand the current context of the land and people and where both may be headed in the future, we begin with an overview of the past.

Alachua County has been populated for at least the last 8,000 years as the natural springs, rivers and bountiful savannahs have long attracted humans.

Yet the contemporary debates that often portray conservation and development as antagonists can be traced back to the first interactions between Europeans and the native peoples of Alachua.

The Spanish established a handful of missions to convert the natives to Christianity in the 17th and 18th Centuries which had the tragic side effect of decimating the population primarily due to disease.

The weakened state of the Spanish Empire in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries combined with the expansionistic tendencies of the young United States contributed to an influx of American pioneer settlers to northern Florida, including the Alachua territory.

Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. in 1819, which soon led to the first established inland settlement in the territory at Micanopy in southern Alachua County in 1821.

The first outright conflict over natural resources occurred in 1835 when growing tensions between American settlers and Seminoles – who were intruding outside the bounds of their reservation due to a scarcity of food – erupted into the Second Seminole War.

The war resulted in the further diminishment of Native American territory and power. Soon after, American settlements adjacent to transportation routes began to increase in prosperity: Newnansville (near the present-day city of Alachua) was the county seat and largest settlement in Alachua County for several decades as it sat on the first federal highway in Florida, the Bellamy Road.

Evolving technology, however, led to evolving settlement patterns and resource usage that left quite a few ghost towns in its wake.

Railroads entered the county in the 1850s, bypassing Newnansville, thus prompting leading residents to create a new town to house the county government located on the Florida Railroad line connecting Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key: Gainesville.

Yet the full boom resulting from railroads was not felt until after the Civil War when lines became more numerous. Cotton and citrus had been major industries, but a series of hard freezes in the 1890s decimated the citrus crop in northern Florida.

Other resources became profitable until exhausted or made obsolete: sawmills became quite common as the lumber industry started booming in the 1880s along with naval stores, turpentine and tobacco in the 1890s. All paled in comparison, though, to the impact the phosphate mining industry would have on the western portion of the county.

The economic boon that would endure above all, however, was Gainesville’s winning bid over Lake City to host the consolidated state schools for higher education as the University of Florida in 1906.

While other industries have waxed and waned, the jobs produced at the university and through university auspices, research, and affiliations continue to abound.

Competing visions of the future for Alachua County continue to focus on its natural resources and are embodied in the quite distinct identities of its communities.

Cities like Alachua tend to seek to attract businesses in order to enhance economic growth, while those like Micanopy and High Springs tend to cater to tourists who come to visit the rivers, springs, and historic sites that some perceive to be threatened by the growing population that could result in part from continued business growth.

Regardless of the causes, Alachua County population growth is in keeping with the rapid trend of Florida in general, having increased from approximately 151,000 people in 1980 to 253,000 in 2013.

A similar issue that faced residents of Alachua County in the past thus continues to be relevant today: at what point, if any, does the opportunity cost of continued growth become too much?

Different interpretations and proposed solutions vary not only from community to community but also from disparate voices within each.

Over the next several weeks we will take a more intimate look at the particular history and character of each of these communities.

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Little Red Riding Hood meets Madness and Mahem

madness a

Madness and Mayhem President Chris Scott, center, developed the "Don't stray from the path" experience for this year's haunted house experience. It runs from Oct. 9 - Oct. 31 at the Video City building in High Springs.

HIGH SPRINGS – There are about a dozen of them that you’ll run into as you make your way through 3,000 square feet of horror. If you dare to venture through the Madness and Mayhem Haunted House experience starting on Oct. 9, you will meet Little Red Riding Hood over and over.

She’s hiding under there and jumping out at you around the next corner. Screaming and moaning and then there’s a grandma who is unlike any grandma you’ve ever met– let’s hope.

Welcome to “Don’t Stray From the Path,” a story that plays out as you meander through darkness surrounded by screams, saw blades running and lightning effects among other secret scary tactics we cannot reveal.

Madness and Mayhem President Chris Scott said he has the Grimms’ Fairy Tales book close by him, next to his bed as a matter of fact, and used it for inspiration when he came up with the plot for his second haunted house design experience.

“There are lots of Reds,” he says about the variations of the lead character that make appearances throughout the event. “But only one,” he adds. “They are really variations.”

More than 100 volunteer actors and behind-the-scenes support crew members have come to help this year’s production which will raise funds for community causes.

According to Scott, proceeds will be divided between Music and Arts Program for Youth in Alachua (MAP for Youth) of Alachua, Plenty of Pitbulls, Our Santa Fe River and High Springs Historical Society. MAP for Youth teaches art, manners and life skills to Alachua County youth, he said.

Sponsors of the haunted house include Sysco, Digitel Video LLC, Great Outdoors, Chris Doering Mortgage, Grady House Bed & Breakfast, North Central Florida Advertiser, Ray Carson Photography, Ladonna D Boyette, True Blue Café, David’s Real Pit BBQ & Catering, McDonald’s of Alachua, Campus Scooters, AAA Event Services LLC, Bret’s Bikes, The Diner, and Old Irishman’s Pawn Shop.

But it is the volunteers that make the show come together Scott and technical coordinator Andy Phelan both claim.

Phelan is the mind behind making the special effects happen. “It starts with Chris’s ideas,” Phelan said. “And I’m the guy who makes it work. My main job is the technical part of it, seeing that the stairs work, that we have light in the right places, seeing that it’s safe.”

The volunteers this year range from age 8 to 76.

A recent dress rehearsal gave those volunteers a chance to practice makeup skills and refine their roles so visitors seeking the adrenaline rush from fear won’t be disappointed.

“He needs an open wound, so I’m trying to decorate him.” actor Zach Malcki said. He was getting the guts all bloody and ready on actor Andrew Ensey from Lake City. Once you meet Andrew’s character, you’ll never forget him.

According to one of the Little Riding Hoods, “I’m supposed to shake around the cage and if somebody comes by I reach out my hand and say ‘Help Me’,” said Mallory Gaerhardt, 12, a student at Bronson Middle School.

Karl Biddle a senior from Fort White High School said his job is “a creepy gardener that comes out from behind a statue and scares people.”

Dakota Stitsinger and Kaitlin New are wearing red contact lenses and both play versions of Riding Hood.

“They’re a little weird to get used to because they move,” Stitsinger said. “Everything in my peripheral is tinted red. But other than that I can see fine. We’re the evil Little Red Riding Hood. Our job is to kill the wolf.”

And then there is the werewolf transformation.

Victoria Wedgwood, 16, of High Springs, attends Santa Fe High School. “That’s not me howling,” she says about the werewolf sound effects playing in the background. She will transform into a werewolf throughout the storyline.

“I attack granny,” says Sydney Cadrain of Fort White. Watch out for her, she is sitting in the corner looking like a werewolf only she’s wearing stockings and high heels.

Lisa Gonzalez is putting makeup on actors, but she is a also the butcher. This is her second year volunteering, she says.

Amelia MacCallum, 13, of Oakview Middle School is a “bench” Red, she said. She becomes mean after being attacked by a wolf. “I did it last year,” she said. “I like doing the makeup. It starts to itch after a while.”

Outside, Aidan Birmingham is a scary villager marching with his arms out in front of him covered in blood and scars.

The host at the door will tell you when you arrive, “Stay in your group. If you stray from the path, they will hunt you down. You must not touch the actors and the props, they will hunt you down.”

Our advice?

Watch out for the wolves, don’t go there alone, stick together and be prepared for all of the screaming and howling.

And look out as the sound of an organ playing crescendos. It means you are getting closer and closer to?

If you hear someone scream: “Get out, hurry!” and the sound of saw blades, and screams of pain, torture and blood, it will be okay. Just don’t freak out as you make your way through a pitch dark space holding onto whoever is closest. So many twists and turns.

Don’t stray from the path or they might just hunt you down.

And if you have little ones who might want to come by, this year, Madness and Mayhem will host a “lights on not so scary,” walkthrough Scott said. “People from the City (High Springs) will be handing out candy in some of the rooms on Halloween,” he said.

“It’s a good way for the community to come through without being terrified.”

The Madness and Mayhem’s 2015 Haunt will be held in the old Video City building at 19975 NW 244th St., in High Springs, each Friday and Saturday starting Oct. 9 – Oct. 31. For hours of operation and more information, please visit their website at or call president, Chris Scott at 352-226-5909.

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Turkey Creek residents to buy golf course


ALACHUA – Residents of Turkey Creek voted to purchase the community’s long-dormant golf course on October 14 for the appraised price of $1.35 million.

The property and amenities included in the purchase total 152 acres and will include the golf course land, clubhouse, pool, tennis courts and racquetball courts.

The course has not been operational since 2011, and current ownership has not maintained the lawns or facilities.

According to the Turkey Creek Master Owners Association (TCMOA), the purchase is intended to ensure continuing maintenance and basic care of the property.

The purchase plan required a minimum approval of 75 percent of homeowners.

“The turnout of residents voting was truly amazing,” said TCMOA President Tim Stanton.

“We had 82 percent of the community voting, and we received a ‘yes’ vote from over 75 percent of the available votes.”

Along with maintenance of the property, the purchase will allow owners to receive free use of the pool and tennis courts and use of the clubhouse as a community center.

The racquetball courts will be demolished.

According to the TCMOA Web Site, the association does not intend to operate the golf course or onsite restaurant, but it is open to the possibility of leasing each to potential tenants.

The plan to pay for the purchase is to acquire a loan not exceeding $2 million to finance both the acquisition and an estimated $650,000 in renovations.

The repayment of the loan is based on a proposed annual assessment of 1.2 mills on all property owners.

Stanton stated that much activity remained to be done now that the vote has finished.

“It will not happen overnight, but it is a very exciting time for Turkey Creek as we move forward with the purchase plan,” he said.

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Dogs kill three horses in Alachua neighborhood

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Photo COURTESY ACSO/Special to alachua County Today

ADSO Deputy Montana Sayers and Dr. Randy Emmons, DVM, tend to injured horses that were attacked by dogs.  Only two out of five mini horses survived.

ALACHUA – John Weber calls it the war zone because as of Monday afternoon, he hadn’t cleaned up the blood splattered across the wall of the stables that once housed his five miniature horses.

According to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), deputies responded to 12808 NW 142nd Terr. in Alachua on Sunday, Oct. 4 to the report of aggressive dogs that had mauled a group of miniature horses. Upon arrival, deputies encountered several severely injured horses, the report said.

“One of the animals sustained fatal wounds from the dog (s) and another horse had to be put down due to the severity of its injuries,” the report continues. “Deputies used their issued trauma kits to provide emergency medical treatment to the other horses and contacted Dr. Randy Emmons, DVM, who responded to the scene to provide veterinary services to the surviving animals.”

By Monday morning, a third horse had died, said 69-year-old owner Weber. And, according to ACSO Public Information Officer Art Forgey, the case was handed over to the Alachua County Animal Services.

“Sparky, the little white one, died this morning,” Weber said while standing near the stalls where the incident happened.

“One mare was dead right here,” he said as he pointed to the doorway. “The others got attacked in here,” he said as he pointed to the blood-stained stalls.

“I’ve got two of them left,” he said of his heard of five purebred miniature horses.

“The mother took good care of them. She kicked the hell out of those dogs.

“There was five here, three of them got killed. Bella, my wife’s first horse was four. Another mare here was 17, she belonged to my vet. She got killed right over here. And the little stud, Sparky, died in my son’s arms when we moved him today.”

Weber buried all three horses in the pasture on Monday in an 8-foot deep grave, he said. Now, he said he wants to meet the owner of the dogs.

According to Forgey, Christa Goon was determined to be the owner.

“Goon was out of town and care for the dogs was being handled by Edmond Sermons,” Forgey stated in an email. According to the report, Sermons was contacted and advised the dogs escaped from the house where he was caring for them. Sermons was issued a citation for the dogs being at large by Animal Control Officer Kirby. Both dogs were seized by animal control.”

When Weber’s grandson arrived home from school on Monday, Oct. 5, he ran to the stall where Sparky was resting earlier that morning.

The A.L. Mebane Middle School student called out to Sparky, but as he approached the stall and realized it was empty, Weber delivered the bad news.

“Sparky was five months old,” Weber said. “My grandson named him.”

Weber’s wife Nancy has been up in New York since the attack happened and at first, he said he wasn’t going to tell her until she came home, but Weber said social media postings forced him to share the bad news.

“She was up there picking apples to bring home for the horses,” he said.

Weber plans to bleach the scene and paint the stalls with a fresh coat of white paint, he said.

He’s already taken wire panels used for a dog kennel apart and started putting them up around the pasture to keep another attack from happening.

The incident is not something he will ever forget the details of, he said.

“The dogs were over the top of here,” he said. “A dark brown and lighter colored one.”

The remaining two horses were skittish at first, but are starting to let visitors approach them.

“Wendy and her baby,” he said. “Wendy got cut underneath her jaw. Under her chin, big time, and they grabbed her hind leg. Curly Sue got just a scratch on her leg.

Weber is still not sure why the dogs attacked his horses and none of the livestock nearby.

“My neighbor’s got goats, they never touched them,” he said. “Why they came through here, I don’t know. And they went for the barn. That’s what got me.

“It’s life though. The ironic part is, that the goat up there was my granddaughter’s 4-H goat. That goat was in the corner shaking.

While the last two horses grazed in the pasture on Monday, Weber asked a question out loud as he watched them.

“I’ll always wonder, will they remember what they saw?”

He turned his attention back to Curly Sue, the smallest and youngest survivor.

“I’m glad she didn’t get hurt,” he said. “That’s my wife’s baby, right there. Her foot is still a little tender. The vet says she’ll be fine.”

Weber said he’ll be writing a letter to ACSO Sheriff Sadie Darnell about how deputies treated him and his herd.

He tears up when he explains what one deputy did upon arrival.

“The deputy stayed here the whole time,” he said about Deputy Montana Sayers.

“The lady was in the pen with a compress on that horse for 45 minutes trying to stop the bleeding.

“All she asked for was two things, he said.

“She wanted a bucket to sit on and she said, ‘give me some tissues.’ ”

“They were absolutely awesome,” he added.

“I’m not going to be mad,” Weber said about his upcoming meeting with the owner of the dogs who was away in Arizona when the attack happened.

“I don’t hold it against the dogs. I hold it against the owners.”

Other attacks

When Weber’s neighbor on the same street saw the news posted on ACSO’s Facebook page, she commented that her family has also had pets attacked and killed by dogs of similar description.

“I used to take my children to the bus stop,” Tracey Neel said.

But a year ago, a dog came out and tried to attack us,” she said. “We had to hide at our landlord’s house.”

Both Neel and Weber live within less than half a mile from W. W. Irby Elementary School located at 13505 NW 140th St.

Neel describes one dog as black and the other as blonde or brown that have both come to her fenced in yard on multiple occasions.

“It still comes in our yard from time to time,” she said about one of the dogs. “ It’s been probably two weeks since they we have seen the black dog.”

According to Neel, who resides five houses north of Weber on the same street at 13208 NW 142 Terr., she called Alachua County Animal Services last year when the dog was out back by the rabbit hutch and “ an hour later, the dog was gone, the rabbit was gone and we never saw animal control.”

According to a Alachua County Animal Services, a report of a dog attack was filed by Neel on Oct. 16, 2014, but the report says Neel called back and cancelled when the dogs left. At that point animal services did not pursue the incident, said Animal Services Field Investigator Darla Farnell.

“We lost the one rabbit one week and the next week, the other one was dead in the yard,” Neel said.

Dogs tipped over a rabbit house to get to the two rabbits.

“There have been dog issues in this area,” Neel said. “I can honestly say I don’t feel comfortable walking my kids to and from the bus stop every day.

“It was nothing dramatic like the horses, but it was for my daughter. With the black dog, we don’t know where it’s from. We keep our gate closed, we also now have a dog.”

According to Forgey, in these cases where animals get loose and kill pets or livestock on another property, the cases are turned over to Animal Services.

“Ultimately, the owner of the horse, to recover any money he is out, would have to sue,” Forgey said about recovery losses.

As of press time, Alachua County Animal Services maintained custody of the two dogs which are now part of an Aggressive Dog Investigation.

“We collect evidence and witness statements, records, documentation,” Farnell explained.

The official citation issued to Edmond according to Farnell was a violation of Ordinance 72.21 “companion animals creating a public nuisance.”

Weber said the dogs' owner still had not returned home and he hasn't spoken to her.

“I'm going to let my attorney do his work,” he said on Tuesday.

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