Our Town 2016 MAY-JUN (Gainesville)

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Lost Springs Artists Capture the Beauty of The Ocklawaha’s Flooded Springs S TORY A N D PH OTOG R A PH Y BY PEGGY M AC DON A LD


eneath the flooded Ocklawaha River lie several hidden springs that awaken every three to five years during a drawdown at Rodman Reservoir. Designed to temporarily kill off the prolific hydrilla that plague the shallow reservoir, the drawdowns breathe new life into the springs along the Ocklawaha, which has been dammed since 1968 as part of the defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal. However, the beneficial effects of the drawdown are only felt for a few months before the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agency raises the water level in the reservoir and the springs once again become “lost.” To springs artist Margaret Tolbert, the lost springs are “like a scene from ‘The Land That

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Time Forgot’ or ‘Planet of the Apes...’ Florida gar crisscross the shallows at the beginning of the run, as the water picks its way through the wreckage and confusion of trees and forests that struggle to survive in the fluctuating waters. Grasses and wildflowers burst off the exposed river bottom, in a last spasm of green brilliance before they are covered anew by the rising waters.” Tolbert was first exposed to the lost springs when boat captains Karen Chadwick and Erika Ritter took her on a trip to the springs during the 2012 drawdown. “I was thunderstruck,” she said. “It is no stretch to see these springs and natural systems, tortured landscapes on the Ocklawaha as beings we need to save and long to join again.” Both Tolbert and local historian and outdoor