What would you do if you knew about a beautiful karst landscape that was being heavily vandalized? Ocala Caverns was once a beautiful park with gardens and a cave but was now overgrown with broken glass, trash, and graffiti.
Jon Singley spearheaded a three step clean-up operation of securing the 7 acre quarried property that was used for a Tarzan movie set in the 1930’s and then a show-cave during the 1950s and 1960s.
STEP 1: CLEAR THE AREA
On September 12, 2009, 38 volunteers from the Florida Speleological Society, Central Florida Cavers , and the Tampa Bay Grotto converged on the Ocala Caverns property to remove trash and graffiti, clean up the fence line, plug any dangerous holes, and cutback the overgrowth.
STEP 2: REPAIR THE FENCE:
The Perimeter fence is the first line of defense (no pun intended). On September 19th the Belleview Fence Company repaired or replaced the damaged fencing making the area secure.
Many locals citizens have been worried about children getting into the cave, and concerned cavers have been frustrated with the trash accumulation and constant vandalism with this same cave.
These two major problems can be cured by one solution: a really well-built gate.
STEP 3: GATE THE CAVE:
On September 23, a few of the more handy FSS members volunteered to wield a bat friendly gate in place with angle iron donated from Blankenship and Pasteur Inc.
Now that the fence is secure, the cave entrance gated, the grounds cleaned up, and dangerous holes covered, the Marion County Sheriff's Office has a great place to train Canine units. Andy’s Signs manufactured placards that were placed around the area reminding any would be trespassers that their may be a surprise waiting for anyone that enters without permission.
The entire project was extremely successful and the story was covered by the Ocala Star-Banner. There has been no evidence of any vandalism, the locals are grateful for having the eyesore beautified, and the property made safe. Thank you to everyone that donated time, effort, and materials. Ocala Caverns is safe as well as protected for future generations to enjoy. It’s great to have all the cavers come together for a common good. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
- Phil Walker