Increasing numbers of park visitors, including summer campers and families looking for recreation, have been seen wading, or even swimming, in the creeks in City of Gainesville nature parks. Unfortunately, due to public health concerns, the City of Gainesville does not promote the use of Hogtown Creek and other urban creeks for public bathing or other water access.
Hogtown Creek passes through several of City of Gainesville nature parks, including Hogtown Creek Headwaters Nature Park, Alfred A. Ring Park, 29th Road Nature Park and Loblolly Woods Nature Park. Although the creek may look pristine, the water carries with it the pollution picked up from its 21-square mile urban watershed. To monitor water quality, scientists often measure levels of fecal coliform bacteria. Because fecal coliform bacteria are usually found in the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals, they are used as indicators of whether disease-causing organisms may be present. High levels of fecal coliforms may suggest that the water is being affected by sewer overflows, failing wastewater infrastructure, septic systems and pet waste.
The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department monitors Hogtown Creek for fecal coliform bacteria, and has regularly found levels that exceed 800 CFU/100mL and higher. By comparison, dedicated swimming areas are monitored for fecal coliform levels and are shut down when levels exceed 200 CFU/100mL. If people get creek water into their mouths, nose, eyes or into scratches or cuts, it can lead to sickness or infection called “recreational water illnesses” or RWIs. Gastroenteritis (stomach bugs) is the most common RWI, and can sometimes be serious. Ear, nose and eye infections, itchy rashes and respiratory discomfort are also possible. Children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are always the most vulnerable.
The City of Gainesville, Gainesville Regional Utilities, Alachua County and the Florida Department of Transportation continue to work together to address pollution in our local waterways. To learn more about how you can prevent pollution of our creeks, please visit http://www.gainesvillecreeks.org/.
The City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department recommends swimming in areas designated for swimming by city, state or park authorities. You can also escape the heat of the summer and visit the enchanting oasis of gently swaying palms, inviting lounge chairs, and cool, clear and refreshing water at one of the city’s three pools: Dwight H. Hunter (Northeast) Pool, H. Spurgeon Cherry (Westside) Pool or Andrew R. Mickle, Sr. Pool (http://goo.gl/3aV2P). Two of the three pools feature splash pads where kids can cool off on a summer day, and Andrew R. Mickle Pool has a rock wall for the kids’ enjoyment.
For more information please contact Linda Demetropoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-393-8445. For a complete facilities listing, please visit www.CityofGainesvilleParks.org.