Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a natural spring where people can come to view alligators, bears, and most of all, manatees! When you first arrive to the location, there is an area dedicated to the history of the area as well as the gift shop. After taking a ride down the stream in a small boat, you arrive at the main part of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. There you can visit the nature trail or the Fish Bowl. The Fish Bowl is an amazing feature in which you can walk down into an underwater observatory in order to see the local manatees in action along with a whole bunch of different types of fish (guide provided!). Several times throughout the day, feedings are held so that visitors can see the manatees up close and personal.
Backstory and Context
Homosassa has practically always had people congregated around it due to the natural spring and local wildlife. With the “passage of the Armed Occupation Act of 1842” the area began to thrive (History & Facts). The Armed Occupation Act of 1842 was put into place so that people would move into different areas of the state. For “each settler who would settle and cultivate five acres or more of land in eastern and southern Florida for a period of five years would receive 160 acres of land and one year’s rations from the Federal government” (Armed Occupation Act). A man by the name of David Levy Yulee bought land off of William Cooley. In the early 1840s, Yulee began to develop the area with the help of his slaves. Yulee’s slaves created a sugar plantation along with other buildings to attract more settlers (History & Facts). “During the Civil War, Homosassa operated in support of the Confederate effort; [but] in the end however, Homosassa was defeated and fell victim to the Union gunboats (History & Facts). After the Civil War was over, three Northern investors “purchased thousands of acres of land once owned by Yulee with the intent on developing the area as a vacation spot for northern visitors, complete with railroad access and a resort hotel” (History & Facts).
The park was named in honor of Elmyra Felburn Schiller, better known as “Ellie”. Ellie Schiller passed away on February 10, 2009 (Niekamp). Ellie Schiller was a vital part to her community. She was “instrumental in convincing her father to fund The Felburn Foundation because of the great need to fund local institutions in the Nature Coast” (HSWSP: Elmyra Felburn Schiller). Ellie and her dad both assisted in providing money to institutions in Florida. Along with helping local charities, her and her father “ensured that worthy conversation and educational needs were met worldwide” (HSWSP: Elmyra Felburn Schiller). Now, her father has a lake named after him called Phil’s Lake and Ellie has a state park named after her in order to honor all they had done for those around them.
“Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State park has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900s, when trains stopped to let passengers off to walk the short trail to the first-magnitude spring” (History). The state park was a place where people could come to see the local wildlife and relax. “In 1964, the Norris Development Company bought the property and expanded it as Homosassa Springs “Nature’s Own Attraction” (History). Some animals from Ivan Tors Animal Actors were kept there and Lu the hippopotamus remained there after the change in ownership. Eventually, Florida bought the land in order to protect the area. Nowadays, “the Park serves an important role in being a rehabilitation center for orphaned or injured manatees that recuperate in the spring waters before being released again to the wild” (Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park). This also includes other sick or injured animals that can no longer survive on their own.
“Many of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions utilize spring ecosystems as their main draw” (Inc. 1). Our predecessors took advantage of Florida’s natural resources rather than making one with manmade tools. They made the observation that, “today all of the largest springs in Florida, whether privately or publicly owned, are managed as recreational parks, which, in turn attract a large number of visitors;” this causes “many springs [to] have suffered declines (often unintentional) in their condition due to visitation by ever increasing numbers of people” (Inc. 1). Ellie Schiller Homosassa Spring Wildlife State Park is a “spring pool [that] is partially filled by an observation platform located over the three spring vents and by a foot bridge that crosses the spring run” (Inc. 41). The state park’s spring pool “is modified for manatee containment and wildlife viewing… and feeds the Homosassa River” (Inc. 41). The park’s “main spring emits about 67 million gallons per day, making it a first magnitude spring” (Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park).
Armed Occupation Act. n.d. Web. 21 11 2019. <https://myfloridahistory.org/date-in-history/august-04-1842/armed-occupation-act>.
History. n.d. Web. 03 10 2019. <https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ellie-schiller-homosassa-springs-wildlife-state-park/history>.
History & Facts. n.d. Web. 24 10 2019. <https://www.homosassaflorida.com/location/history-facts>.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. n.d. Web. 09 10 2019. <http://floridanaturecoast.org/County/Citrus/HomosassaSprings/HomosassaSprings.aspx>.
HSWSP: Elmyra Felburn Schiller. 17 03 2016. Web. 24 10 2019. <https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC6DPEB_hswsp-elmyra-felburn-schiller?guid=8873efcd-1414-44f7-97cc-84476cfb4236>.
Inc., Wetland Solutions. An Ecosystem-Level Study of Florida's Springs. 26 02 2010. Web. 10 10 2019. <https://www.wetlandsolutionsinc.com/download/AquaticEcology/Springs_Ecosystem_Study_Final%20022610.pdf>.
Niekamp, Andy. Ellie Schiller Orbituary. 14 02 2009. Web. 21 11 2019. <http://www.rkci.org/library/ellie_schiller_obit.htm>.