Spring Forward

Warm Mineral Springs Reopens, With a Potential New Future to Ponder

After six months of closure due to Hurricane Ian, North Port's Warm Mineral Springs is back—and plans for a public-private partnership that sees a wellness resort on-site are now on the table.

By Kim Doleatto April 6, 2023

Warm Mineral Springs Park in the City of North Port in South Sarasota County.

After roughly six months of closure due to the effects of Hurricane Ian on the Gulf Coast, Warm Mineral Springs Park in North Port is set to reopen tomorrow, with free admission through April 11.

So upon return, will Warm Mineral Spring Park fans find the destination looks any different than before?

“It was in bad shape before, and it’s still not in great shape," says North Port city manager Jerome Fletcher. "[But there was a] necessity to open back up as soon as possible because we know how important it is for people to get in there. It took a lot to get there, though."

In case you didn't know, Warm Mineral Springs is heralded by visitors as a healing body of water that relieves symptoms of body aches and pains like arthritis, among other therapeutic benefits.

In order for the park to open, roughly 3,500 cubic yards of vegetative debris were removed from the outflow creek. Modular buildings for the admissions office and a restroom trailer are on site, and there's an ADA-accessible path, connecting the temporary structures to the springs. Staff is being trained by the North Port's Parks and Recreation department, and potable water, electricity and other utilities are also being connected. At the regular North Port City Commission meeting on April 11, commissioners will consider adjusting the daily park admission fee to $5 a day for Sarasota County residents and $7 a day for non-residents, instead of the original $15 and $20 per day, respectively.

Aerial image of the Warm Mineral Springs Park.

But in the future, the 83-acre site may look very different, thanks to a developer's proposal.

In an unsolicited private-public partnership proposal, Warm Mineral Springs Development Group’s (WMSDG) vision is to “further enhance Warm Mineral Springs as both a health and wellness destination and a public community amenity area."

Its plan outlines the potential for a resort with 250 rooms, a full-service spa and event space, and a wellness center to facilitate a holistic wellness program that would include classes and treatments in a variety of holistic approaches. There would also be a restaurant and a Native American museum.

Other ideas in the proposal include fitness trails, a community performance area, a dog park, an easy connection to the Legacy Trail, a mini-golf and entertainment venue, bike rentals and an ice cream shop. Plans also call for roughly 300 "destination residential units," which would be marketed internationally and designed for extended stays (i.e., monthly or seasonally). The units would be marketed for sale, with WMSDG providing a management program for unit owners.

The proposal also says that WMSDG would “fund, without debt or outside investment, the entire cost of the project over and above the $9,345,471 million allocated by the City for improvements to the Springs."

Three buildings on the National Register of Historic Places would also be restored. Those buildings include a park spa building, a sales building and a cyclorama, which contains an exhibit depicting Ponce de Leon's alleged discovery of Warm Mineral Springs, which he assumed was the Fountain of Youth. The spa building and the cyclorama were designed by Jack West, a leader of the Sarasota School of Architecture.

The City of North Port would need to initiate a comprehensive plan and zoning change to allow for the uses in this proposal. And although the city opened the door for other developers to submit competing proposals, no other firms have come forward.

The city has entered the negotiation phase with WMSDG management, but the proposal won’t break ground without ample public engagement, Fletcher says.

He adds that the city looked forward to collecting feedback from the community with an online survey and soon-to-be-scheduled public charette weighing the findings. Jon Thaxton, of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, will facilitate the in-person engagement.

After negotiations, the proposed agreement would go before the North Port City Commission for consideration, with an opportunity for public comment. 

Residents who oppose the proposal worry about the environmental implications—one of the spring's outflows is a destination for dozens of manatees to gather during colder months. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission calls the downstream run “the most important natural manatee warm-water refuge along Florida’s Southwest Coast.”

“The people who voiced their opinion and protested this, we need them to keep that energy when it comes to the next part of this process, from communicating with our commissioners to showing up for the survey and charette," Fletcher says.

Subscribe for email updates on the status of Warm Mineral Springs Park hereLearn more about prorated refunds or pass extensions for Warm Mineral Springs Park pass holders impacted by the temporary closure here. For more information about admission, operations or park rules, click here. Concession services will not be available upon the park's reopening, but visitors may bring small coolers. 

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