NORTH PORT, Fla. - 2013 is coming to a close, and Warm Mineral Springs in North Port remains closed. It's been one of the most talked about stories in the area.
For the past five months there are have been protests and pleas. Some residents are even starting a candlelight vigil to pray for a better year.
Some might be tired of talking about the spring, which closed this summer after Sarasota County and North Port leaders couldn’t seem to agree on a management plan. Not so for many who say their lives are still being turned upside down because of the closure.
North Port resident Ania Nazarian lives a few blocks from Warm Mineral Springs. She says its closing five months ago has had a dramatic impact on her neighborhood. “There is nothing going on now. We feel like this neighborhood has deteriorated greatly."
She's one of many who have been protesting and begging government leaders to get something done. "Give us back our life. This is part of our life. This is part of our experience of living here. That's why most of the people are here. That's why they have moved here."
Ironically, the 81 acres there with Florida's only natural hot spring was purchased by both Sarasota County and the City of North Port to ensure public access.
Those like Eric Kotte, who now plans to run for city office, says the closing is hurting pocketbooks, too. "Business is going down; houses losing value or going into foreclosure…especially rental houses."
A few months back a short term deal was in place to get it back open, but that too fell through.
Guests who travel there from around the world are still upset to find the doors locked. "I am a visitor from Poland. I was here a few years ago. This is a scandal."
Neighbors are even lighting a candle Monday evening to pray that something changes quickly in the new year. "I guess put everything in the grave. Have new hope."
"It's almost as if we are commemorating a member of our community which has been locked away."
In hopes 2014 is a better one for the ancient springs. "We hope it will be better. I think the residents here are ready to do anything they need to do to get our water back."