Stew Lilker’s

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Rum Island Park: Additional Handicapped Parking on the Way, Along With More Security & Cameras

Commissioner Rocky Ford speaks with Sgt. Pete Spurlock while he was on Park Patrol.  Photo: Columbia County Observer

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Along with the reopening festivities today, the good news at Rum Island Park is that there will be handicapped parking installed at the new restrooms and the security cameras, after a year, have finally been ordered.

For over a year, the gem at the south end of Columbia County, Rum Island Park, had been closed for renovations paid for with $300,000 of state grants, which came out of the taxpayers' pockets.

Cost overruns were paid with Columbia County reserves.

The renovations included a new $150,000 restroom and a $150,000 bank and shoreline reconstruction and new striping, docks, and fencing.

Sgt. Pete Spurlock converses with a visitor from Gilchrist County.

Overlooked in the process was the required installation of additional handicapped parking by the new restrooms.

Also overlooked was the ordering and installation of security cameras for the Park.

District 2 Commissioner Rock Ford has been on the job making sure the park renovations were up-to-snuff. He was recently dismayed to discover that the new parking spaces across from the new restrooms lacked the required handicapped parking. See: After a Year, Rum Island Park Finally Re-Opens: Handicapped Parking an Afterthought & an Issue

He was also discouraged to find that the Park's security cameras, something which had been talked about for over a year, had not been ordered.

At the beginning of the month, your reporter spoke with Assistant County Manager and the man in charge of all County public works, Kevin Kirby.

He assured the Observer that the handicapped parking was on the way. He said, "We will pull a minor modification permit. We already have the concrete lined up. As soon as we get the permit, we will put in the handicapped parking. It is going to look good."

Your reporter asked how long this was going to take.

Mr. Kirby replied, "I'm at the mercy of the Water Management District. As soon as I get the permit, it will be done."

Commissioner Ford inspecting the preparations for the handicapped parking across from the new restrooms.

There was some question regarding the ADA rules governing the handicapped parking. Unknown to North Florida Professional services, the engineering firm that designed the restrooms and Mr. Kirby, Clint Pitman, the County Grounds Keeper, and his crew put in the gravel parking across from the restrooms. Most everyone thought handicapped parking was necessary once the additional parking was installed. The additional parking was not on the plans.

When Commissioner Ford discovered the lack of handicapped parking, he wanted it right away.

According to the North Florida Professional Services (NFPS) Greg Bailey, the installed additional parking was not on his plans and he had turned in the paperwork closing out the job. He said, "The Water Management would have to issue a minor modification."

Mr. Bailey continued, "I told Kevin [Kirby] he will have to construct a 20x17 apron. Apparently, Clint [Pitman] went and did this after we got done with all the other work down there. I wasn't aware they were going to do all this."

According to Mr. Kirby, NFPS is preparing the application for the handicapped space."

Security Cameras

Commissioner Ford discusses the newly renovated park with Sgt Spurlock. They went to high school together.

At last week's meeting of the County 5, your reporter brought up the Park's lack of security cameras.

Commissioner Ford announced that they were ordered and would not be in for 45 days. Commissioner Ford was not happy that the cameras were not ordered earlier.

Sheriff's Office

On Saturday, September 19, your reporter spoke with Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter about the security at Rum Island Park.

Sheriff Hunter said, "We were asked by the County to step up enforcement. They put a lot of investment in the Park and we want to make sure that it is taken care of and we will be down there."

In conversations with both Commissioner Ford and Sheriff Hunter, both agreed that a Sheriff's Shield that can be seen on the side of the new building, with signage, which states that the Park is being patrolled by the Columbia County Sheriff, is a good idea.

Sheriff Hunter said, "After I speak with Commissioner Ford, I will make this happen."

The New Dock by the Spring

Commissioner Ford standing where the new dock will be constructed.

According to Commissioner Ford, the County's insurance will be paying to replace the dock at the spring that was destroyed recently when a tree fell through the middle of it.

Mr. Ford said the new dock would match the other two, which were part of the renovations.

Sheriff Hunter said he wants the Park to be a place for families and the Sheriff's Office will be keeping its eye on it.


Rum Island Park is a beautiful place and the County, while a little late, is getting its act together.

Anyone who is interested in the beauty of natural North Florida should take a ride down and enjoy this gem.

And one never knows, you might bump into the Sheriff or Commissioner Ford.

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