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Springs Ambassador and Sinkhole Savior

As Wakulla Springs Ambassador, Cal Jamison is on a mission to save sinkholes. Jamison's efforts are focusing needed attention on the importance of Wakulla county sinkholes.

Thirty years ago, Cal Jamison discovered the restorative powers of swimming in and exploring sinkholes and springs in Wakulla County. Now he helps restore and protect them as the Wakulla Springs Ambassador.

Audio Feature Transcript

Narration: With a lofty title like Wakulla Springs Ambassador, Cal Jamison should not have to do a lot of walking in his job. But walk he does, through the woods and swamps of Wakulla and Leon counties in search of sinkholes. These depressions, or holes in the landscape, are abundant in this part of Florida's panhandle, where collapses in the shallow limestone aquifer create sinks, or natural pools, called karst windows.

Jamison: I went out and started walking the county in search of sinkholes. What we were mainly interested in doing was finding karst window sinks that connected to the cave system that lead to Wakulla Springs, finding any sinks that are imperiled, and if we could get the landowner to participate in the voluntary springs initiative clean up program.

Narration: Prior to his position as ambassador, Jamison had explored springs and sinkholes for 30 years. The opportunity to help protect them was his chance of a lifetime.

Jamison: When I came back here a year and a half ago, I did my job. I took a GPS reading of the sink and I wrote down a description. Then I officially declared myself off-duty, put all of my stuff aside and jumped in the sink. I grabbed a hold of that rope swing, swung out there and dropped off and hit the water and - it chokes me up - I cried. It was like the sinks were saying, 'It's OK. Welcome back.'

Narration: Jamison has mapped more than 360 sinkholes and has counseled countless landowners about the importance of protecting sinks. One owner is Ross Tucker, who lives about six miles from Wakulla Spring.

Jamison: Well this is Tucker Sink. It's owned by local businessman, Ross Tucker, and this is the one that we've been doing a restoration project on. When he bought this land the sink looked pretty pristine, but it turned out there was quite a bit of hazardous material and debris in it.

Narration: Prior to purchasing the property, Tucker's sinkhole had been dumped in for about 40 years. It was close enough to Wakulla Spring to be of concern. However, Tucker had more immediate issues before he could address the problems with the sink.

Tucker: I was primarily concerned about getting the house going because I needed to build a house. I was focused on that and then all of the sudden Cal came out of nowhere like a miracle. I wasn't expecting that.

Narration: Tucker's "miracle" came in the form of funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Springs Initiative. It paid for removal of 198 tons of construction material, car parts and other debris from the sinkhole. Officials feared this material might be entering the aquifer through the sink.

Jamison: The traditional mentality years ago was that if you had a homestead and you were out in the woods and you were fortunate enough to have a sinkhole, well that's where you put your garbage. Now when I talk to folks about things that are in sinkholes they're horrified at some of the stuff that comes out. They wonder how in the world anybody could put something in there that is that harmful. When you look back at tradition, why that's the place where you always put it. It's just a matter of educating those folks who still do it about not doing it.

Narration: Jamison ends his day at another sink restoration success story. This one's located within the boundaries of Wakulla Springs State Park.

Jamison: This is Cherokee Sink and it was acquired by the Wakulla Springs State park a couple of years ago. Last year during the Wakulla County Coastal Cleanup we took out an automobile, a boat, trailer, shop's smith tool, base station for a radio and 40 bags of cans and glass. This is one of the most popular swimming spots in the county apart from Wakulla Springs itself, and it looks pretty good to me. I think I'm going to take a dip.

Narration: The sink's chilly water washing away the Florida heat and reminds Jamison why he's their ambassador.

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