Warm Mineral Springs: New Hope for Peace, Protection and Prosperity
Nov 01, 2014 01:30AM
By Juliette Jones
“It is said when we walk on the Earth, we are walking on our ancestors and our unborn children. This is the relationship that Native people have with the earth. It is this relationship, which gives insight into the Earth’s rhythm and heartbeat and creates the feeling of belonging. If you feel you belong to something, you treat it with respect. If you feel you are above something, you’ll treat it with disrespect. Native American Spirituality is tied to the Earth: We belong to the Earth, along with all other creatures. In the Indian Spirit, the land is still vested; it will be until other men are able to divine and meet its rhythm. Men must be born and reborn to belong. Their bodies are formed out of the dust of their forefathers’ bones.”
Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux
For the past few years, Warm Mineral Springs has been in the news as a virtual vortex of intense oppositional assertions, ranging from the sacred to the profane. The ancient peoples venerated it as a sanctum of protection and healing; thousands of years ago, the Paleo Indians performed ritual burials in the now submerged caves. As a culture intimate with the natural world, I expect they experienced an unquestioned reverence for the peaceful energies of the place.
This has not been the case in our present material culture, which has generally desacralized our relationship with nature, and fails to understand the concept of earth jurisprudence. We live in a time when the environment around us, most critically the water ecology here in Florida, is being destroyed and/or polluted due to human ignorance, indifference and greed; in many places, the problem is getting worse, not better. Until we, as a culture, choose to remain conscious of the truth, – that we are not separate from the body of nature – we will foster imbalance and unsustainability.
In the ancient world, there was no place called Florida or North Port, no need for fences or stewardship, no Dollar Stores, dollars, or thoughts of hotels and parking lots. I doubt that we can even begin to appreciate what Warm Mineral Springs might have been so far back in time. Yet, for many, the spring still whispers of her secrets. Why would this be important, anyhow? Why indeed?
A decade ago, I once caught a glimpse of that mysterious ancient world – a flashback of sorts. One shimmering summer night under full moon and black sky, I swam the spring in the presence of unseen owls and turtles. The warm mineral waters are quite literally ancient, suspended in time, radioactively dated as thousands of years old. The ancient water tells its story for those, who have the ears to hear. It still gets in your eyes and in your blood, influencing the way you see and feel things. It virtually becomes part of you, and for a moment, you are far from the modern world – floating…timeless…past and present all together. This, in itself, is healing.
Warm Mineral Springs is perpetually worthy of devotional protection and preservation. There is something terribly out of tune in a culture that no longer can see and feel this land and water as sacred – a culture that places irresponsible, unsustainable growth above what is truly life giving. How can we fail to see this tendency as a cancer of the psyche? It’s a sign of the times.
Be that as it may, there is light on the horizon. Here in North Port there may still be hope. The recent purchase of Warm Mineral Springs by the present City of North Port Commission was a feat of no small consequence, and deserves high praise. They have traversed a path of enormous work and political battering to reach this momentous point. Kudos to Cheryl Cook, Rhonda DiFranco, Tom Jones and Linda Yates.
This Commission holds the keys to a new legacy of eco-political leadership. A series of workshops will be scheduled, possibly beginning as early as October 21. Foresight of vision and respect for sustainability, here and now, will serve both the local and international community on behalf of generations to come. One would hope that the current Commission will take steps to preserve what they have worked so hard to achieve before a new set of Commissioners undo what they have thus far preserved. A move to block development beyond the current footprint without the implementation and results of the originally proposed full-scale USGS study would be both fair and congruent, in accordance with the research that they have accomplished, and has already been paid for by taxpayers.
Will the North Port City Commission Abide by Their Expensive Research?
The following is excerpted from a City of North Port Interoffice Memo:
“Four staff members, two from Sarasota County and two from the city of North Port, had the opportunity to travel to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to research the operations and inner-workings of spas and springs located in Hot Springs National Park. While meeting with the National Park Service staff, it became quite evident that the National Park Service had spent much time studying the geology and hydrology of the 47 springs under their purview. National Park Service worked with the United States geological survey (USGS) to study and understand precisely the location, sources, amount of water flowing, amount collected, amount discharged, temperature and the chemical analysis of the water produced. They continually test and retest the commodity. National Park Service staff also indicated that for many years, they had made incorrect assumptions about the geothermal water source and flow of Hot Springs. They stressed the importance of fully understanding our resources before decisions are made which could impact the springs forever. City and County staff also met with several spot operators at Hot Springs, toward the facilities and learned about the operations.
“When staff returned, they immediately contacted the USGS. The Tampa office provided a scope of work that had been prepared several years ago but had not been funded or initiated. The report provides some background information on the hydrology and water quality of the springs, but clearly identifies questions that still remain unanswered. Performing the work identified in the scope would provide further information toward fully understanding the springs before moving forward with development.”
In reviewing the above report, put together back in 2012 by Danny Schult, Assistant City Manager of North Port, it came to my attention that there was once a heart here in North Port for real preservation and protection. This report emerged before Sarasota County began to ignore the need for USGS studies and push for big development.
Below is an excerpt from the summation of this report:
“Ensure the preservation and protection of Warm Mineral Springs
“As owners of the property, this is our responsibility. Contract with the US Geological Survey to coordinate and continue research on the geological and hydrological aspects of the spring. Ensure that the location of any future development would not impact any aspect of the spring. Fully understand the hydrology, as well as potential risks associated with water extraction to the viability of the springs…The importance of fully understanding our resources before decisions are made, which could impact the springs forever.”
The scope of the originally proposed study referenced here is far more extensive and to-the-point than the retrospective portion of that study, which the county more recently approved. It is a full-scale study, which determines the nature and location of present water flow and information on the recharge areas. It determines the real scope and safety of plans for development, if at all. We must be aware that if a recharge area is compromised, Warm Mineral Springs can be irreparably damaged and/or lose its flow, as happened here in Florida to White Sulfur Spring, which was once an extremely popular health spring and tourist attraction. Now, the flow has disappeared along with all the tourists.
These USGS determinations are critical to the life of Warm Mineral Spring. Conditions in the modern world necessitate monitoring, solid research and the determination to do everything reasonably possible to keep this spring safe from injury, harm or destruction.
Upon North Port’s vote to purchase, someone spoke up, saying, “The Springs have come home.” Indeed, I sense a new and authentic spirit of care and a well-earned pride of accomplishment. But Warm Mineral Springs was already home, as it belongs to Mother Earth. What has come home to North Port is the stewardship of these ancient, sacred healing waters. May their hands and hearts elect a path of custodial wisdom, as they are now the caretakers in what may be the most consequential and potentially perilous epoch in the life of this spring.
Those, who wish to speak on behalf of the preservation and protection of Warm Mineral Springs, may choose to express their feelings to the North Port City Commission via [email protected] . They need to know what you see and how you feel. Again, they have worked hard to get to this point, acted with wisdom and voted with their conscience. Please consider taking a moment of your time to do this, whether you live in North Port, or not. Many travel here from all over the world.
Contact Juliette Jones, Ph.D, at [email protected].