Quality of life at the doorstep to Florida freshwater springs country
Historic. Quaint. Charming. Yes, I could describe High Springs with these adjectives, but if I stopped there I’d be missing the bigger picture of a town that’s actively engaged in the process of reinventing itself.
The railroad—which for many years was the backbone of the local economy—still runs through the center of town, but it’s no longer the defining characteristic of High Springs. The old train depot is now a visitors’ center, and people come here all year round from all over the world to swim, dive, and canoe our local rivers and springs.
Ask any number of people what’s their favorite thing about High Springs, and you’ll get any number of different answers: a place where you can see first-run movies with your family on Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights at the oldest continuously operating theater in Florida; a town with a great destination restaurant and a variety of smaller eateries that offer delicious food, drinks, coffee, ice cream and desserts, all served with neighborly smiles; a great place to hunt for finds in antique stores and thrift shops. And of course, High Springs is the prime jumping-off spot for exploring nearby state parks (O’Leno, River Rise, and Ichetucknee Springs) and the lower Santa Fe River and its many freshwater springs.
High Springs offers a slice of small-town life that’s getting harder and harder to find, yet just about everything I need can be found here—a weekly farmers’ market for my husband, the cook; bed and breakfast inns and motels for out-of-town visitors; churches; spas; yoga classes; a library; civic center park; grocery store; drug store; physicians; a dentist; jewelers; florists; a bike shop; dive shops; canoe and kayak outfitters; a martial arts studio; hardware stores; beauty and barber shops; veterinarians; and an artists’ cooperative.
So what’s my favorite place in High Springs? It’s the dry cleaner’s shop. One step through that swinging door and onto that old wooden floor, and I’ve stepped back in time to a place with a slower pace, where neighbors know and care about each other and the news of the day is that I spotted a fox squirrel in my yard that very morning. And when I step outside with my hangers of clean clothes, I know that my favorite swimmin’ hole is only a few minutes’ drive away.
article contributed by Lucinda Faulkner Merritt