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Sunday Favorites: Change Coming to Embattled Springs


Women stand in front of the gazebo that once stood near Manatee Mineral Spring.

Photo: Manatee Historical Archives. 

This week marked a milestone for Manatee Mineral Spring when historical advocates unveiled a interactive walkway detailing the groups of people that utilized the body of water throughout the centuries.

Efforts to preserve the spring’s rich history are finally trending upward for the first time in three decades, after the spring was covered with a concrete slab. However, another spring with similar properties has been closed and remains mired with controversy and bad decisions.

Warm Mineral Springs in North Port was set to re-open. The city's only attraction, which is jointly owned by the city and Sarasota County, had been a lightning rod of controversy since its July closing, when city and county leaders couldn't come up with a plan to keep it open.

After much debate and the threat of a lawsuit, the two parties decided that it was in the county and city's best interest to re-open the springs, which also included a restaurant and day spa, and they settled on letting an operator bid for the opportunity of a short term lease.

Enter New York-based doctor Grigory Pogrebinsky. Awarded the chance to run the springs for a year, Pogrebinsky was planning to re-open the attraction as early as October.

But as he toured the grounds, the doctor decided the facilities needed work and the park represented a safety hazard, instead of a healing safe haven, which he envisioned the park becoming. Porgrebinsky then decided not to sign the agreement with the city because of the disrepair, and now the city and county are back at square one.

The springs, which once drew thousands of visitors each year from around the world, sit empty, waiting once again to find its purpose.

Meanwhile, the Manatee Mineral Spring site is finally getting the attention it deserves, as the historical society is planning to unveil a historical, interactive walkway.

The spring has long been closed, ever since Bradenton city leaders decided to cover it with a concrete slab in the 1980's. Once considered one of the county's jewels, one that served generation upon generation, the spring was thought to have medicinal healing properties, much like its counterpart in North Port.

Buried beneath concrete, the spring is getting a second life. The interactive walkway, which opened October 19, winds around the perimeter of the springs, and details all of the cultures and peoples who have used it.

Signs along the way explore the area’s history, including Native Americans, the maroons of Angola, Early Pioneers, The Third Seminole War, The Civil War, and much more.

Will Manatee Spring ever be re-opened, the concrete slab ripped off?

A small group of history enthusiasts that purchased the spring in 1998 think so. Called Reflections of Manatee, that group's executive director Trudy Williams, believes that plans could call for one day reopening Manatee Mineral Spring, a move that would undoubtedly delight residents and restore one of the region’s historical treasures.

While positive steps have been made at the Manatee Mineral Spring, it's unfortunate that two of Florida's unique natural attractions traverse such obstacles due mismanagement and neglect.

Read my article regarding the closing of Warm Mineral Springs. 


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