Last updateThu, 28 Jul 2016 1pm

High Springs Really is 'Gator Country'

Q - HSPD alligator officers

Photo Special to Alachua County Today

The High Springs Police Department conducted over 100 traffic stops over the Memorial Day weekend holiday. But the incident creating the most interest was an alligator feeding on a dead deer on the side of U.S. Highway 441. L-R: HSPD Sergeant Dustin Shenk and Office Adam Joy responded to the alligator incident.

HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Police officers had their hands full this three-day Memorial weekend with everything from multiple arrests, traffic stops, an alcohol-related accident and an alligator holding up traffic on U.S. Highway 441.

“It was busy, that's for sure,” said Lt. Antoine Sheppard.

The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) deployed additional officers during the weekend in anticipation of a busy holiday. “Gilchrist and Alachua County Sheriff's officers also assisted in traffic enforcement along County Road 340,” said Sheppard.

HSPD conducted more than 118 traffic stops over the course of the holiday weekend, netting eight arrests. Charges ranged from drug-related issues to administration of active arrest warrants.

With all the excitement and traffic in the area, the item that garnered the most attention was a video and photos posted on the HSPD's Facebook page of a young alligator feasting on a dead deer by the side of U.S. Highway 441 near Bev's Better Burgers.

“This thing has gone viral,” said Sheppard. “We have had a lot more hits and comments than ever before since we uploaded the videos and photos of the incident,” said Sheppard. “It has also been picked up by WJXT Channel 4 in Jacksonville.”

The incident occurred Monday when a juvenile alligator meandered over to the dead animal along the highway. Cars stopped as the alligator crossed the road.

With assistance from the Florida Wildlife Commission, HSPD officers were able to safely capture the loose alligator as it was becoming a hazard. The gator was moved and relocated to a safe area away from the public.

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Newberry's State Road 26 Traffic Woes under Scrutiny

NEWBERRY – On May 23, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) presented commissioners with alternative suggestions to help move traffic through Newberry more efficiently.

Although their Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) study is not yet complete, FDOT presented alternatives as a way to obtain feedback from the City's public officials regarding the alternatives under consideration.

FDOT began the study in late 2014 and has since conducted three public meetings to obtain comments from Newberry's citizens. Those comments were taken under consideration in developing the alternatives.

An earlier PD&E study conducted in 2007 examined several alternative alignments for increasing the capacity of State Road 26. One alternative considered at that time was construction of a bypass around Newberry's downtown district. Another alternative was construction of one-way pairs (a split highway featuring two lanes of traffic moving one-way east and west through Newberry).

Due to lack of state funding, the earlier study was put on hold.

The bypass alternative suggested at that time is no longer viable due to the cost of land acquisition, approximately $150 million.

“At this time,” said Bryan Thomas, Newberry Planning Director, “the town has grown in such a way that some of those lands originally considered for a bypass are no longer available.”

FDOT said they want to preserve the historic district while improving mobility on State Road 26. The road is part of the evacuation plan for the west coast in case of emergency evacuation.

Some of the alternatives being considered include removal of on-street parking in downtown Newberry. Additional side street parking and acquisition of additional paved and signed parking areas could be one answer to the parking issue. One benefit of removing on-street parking is that it would make room for a third turn lane to be installed at intersections.

If the one-way pairs concept is chosen, it would begin at Northwest 264th Street, west of downtown Newberry, and end near the park & ride lot east of U.S. 41. State Road 26 (West Newberry Road) would become a one-way eastbound street, with two 12-ft. travel lanes, a bicycle lane on the south side of the street and on-street parking on the north side of the street. Northwest First Avenue would become a one-way westbound street, with two 11-ft. travel lanes and a bicycle lane on the north side of the street.

The proposed improvements could also include a roundabout at CR 337.

In discussing the alternatives, Thomas said, “There are some very good potential benefits and some potential downsides to all of the alternatives. The downsides can be mitigated with advanced planning.”

Commissioners were not asked to make a decision as to which plan was best for Newberry, but were asked to provide adequate feedback to FDOT to allow them to go back to the study and come back later with more detailed plans for consideration.

The limits of the PD&E study extend from the Gilchrist County line to County Road 26A, approximately four miles, and is being funded by FDOT.

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Newberry Lions Club Spring Fundraiser Underway

Q - Newberry Linos Spring Spring Raffle kickoff

Photo special to Alachua County Today

Newberry Lions Club members Jack Varnon, Ken McIntosh, Helen McIntosh and Gloria Keller kick off the spring fundraising campaign.

NEWBERRYThe Newberry Lions Club, which serves the Newberry, Trenton, and Archer region, has kicked off its spring fundraising raffle. Prizes awarded include $150 in scratch-off Florida Lottery tickets.

Lions Clubs are the “Knights of the Blind” and funds raised by the Newberry Lions Club have provided eyeglasses and helped cover the costs of cataract surgery to recipients in our area, provided free eye screenings to local children, been used to support local events and local organizations, and also to support national organizations like Southeastern Guide Dogs and the International Lions Club Foundation.

Raffle tickets may be purchased by contacting Club members through the Club’s Facebook page or emailing requests to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Club members will also be selling tickets at various events throughout the Newberry area, just look for those bright gold vests! Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5.

The drawing for the raffle will be held at the Newberry Watermelon Festival on May 21.

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Florida’s illegal marijuana growers take $55 million hit

TALLAHASSEEFlorida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam has announced that the state’s Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program resulted in the discovery of more than 328 indoor and outdoor grow sites, the destruction of 18,505 marijuana plants and the arrest of 279 people last year. The estimated street value of the seized marijuana is more $55.6 million.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services works to prevent the cultivation and distribution of marijuana through the Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program, which is a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and local sheriff’s offices and police departments in 45 counties across the state.

“By partnering with local law enforcement to detect and destroy illegal marijuana grow operations, we’re making communities safer for Floridians and visitors,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said.

 The Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program provides funds to law enforcement agencies to help offset their marijuana grow site investigations and provides in-depth training to law enforcement officers at no cost to their agency. In 2015, these schools were attended by 87 law enforcement officers from 49 law enforcement agencies, including 26 sheriff’s offices, 22 police departments, and one state agency.

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Microburst downs Civic Center trees

HS downed tree 4997

HIGH SPRINGS – In addition to recent heavy winds and rain that have affected much of northern Florida, what is being described as a microburst, a small downdraft that moves in a way opposite of a tornado, hit a large number of trees behind the High Springs Cemetery and Civic Center.

“While we did lose some other trees around town, this is the only area that had a lot of trees impacted,” said High Springs City Manager Ed Booth.

According to City personnel, perhaps a dozen trees were affected in this one area.

“Trees leaning on or falling on other trees are particularly dangerous,” said Booth. “It's particularly hazardous because kids are out playing sports and may not be aware of falling trees and debris.”

The city has already hired a contractor to take down old dead trees on the City's right-of-ways.

“We expect them to begin cleanup by the early part of this week,” Booth said.

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