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North Central Florida Regional Planning Council awards Commissioner John Meeks the James H. Montgomery Certificate of Outstanding Attendance

GAINESVILLE — Levy County Commissioner John Meeks was recently awarded the James H. Montgomery Certificate of Outstanding Attendance by Scott Koons, Executive Director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council. The Certificate was awarded in recognition of Commissioner Meeks’ attendance at every scheduled council meeting during Program Year 2020-21. He has served on the council since August 2016, representing Levy County as a local elected official.

The council named its Member Attendance Recognition Program the James H. Montgomery Certificate of Outstanding Attendance in honor of Mr. Montgomery. He served on the council from 1976 to 2004, representing the Board of County Commissioners of Columbia County, Florida. From 2010 to 2019, Mr. Montgomery served on the council as a gubernatorial appointee representing Columbia County. He served as Chair of the Council three times and provided 38 years of distinguished leadership and service.

The membership of the council includes local, elected officials and gubernatorial appointees. The council, in partnership with economic development organizations and local governments, promotes regional strategies, partnerships and solutions to strengthen the economic competitiveness and quality of life of 12 counties and 40 incorporated municipalities in North Central Florida.

The council administers a variety of state and federal programs for North Central Florida, including: Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Union Counties. Programs include: development of a strategic regional policy plan; technical assistance to local governments in development of comprehensive plans, land development regulations and grant management; and administration of hazardous materials programs and economic development programs.

In addition, the council staffs the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization for the Gainesville Urbanized Area, the North Central Florida Local Emergency Planning Committee, the North Central Florida Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team and The Original Florida Tourism Task Force.

Commissioner Meeks has been very active on the council. He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Clearinghouse Committee.

The council’s offices are located in Gainesville. More information about the council can be found at

A day of fun and learning

TRENTON — The Trenton Train Depot was the place to be on Saturday, as a number of people made their way to the first annual Community Fun Day sponsored by the Gilchrist County Scouts Troop and Pack 406.

The event was free to the public, and in addition to members of the troop being in attendance, a handful of businesses from in and around the area also took part in the festivities, setting up tables and speaking to those who visited.

Tina McConnell is the committee chair person for the Gilchrist County Scouts Troop and Pack 406 and assists with fundraising and recruitment of people to the organization. She said one of the reasons she decided to organize the event was to help spread the word about the troop.

“I call it a community outreach,” she said. “I just wanted to make it fun and as free as possible for the community to try and get us (the troop) known out there and all the other organizations that we have in our community available for everyone.”

Similar to a number of other businesses and organizations, the Gilchrist County Scouts Troop and Pack 406 has also felt the impacts of COVID-19 over the last couple of years.

“It decreased our pack participation,” McConnell said. “We’re just trying to let people know that we’re still here (and) that they have other organizations that are available to them.”

At this time, the pack is the only one of its kind in the Tri-County Area. However, McConnell said the organization plans to help – if they can get a sufficient number of people – both Archer and Bronson set up their own packs, given their long distances. If this doesn’t work out, an alternative would be for people in these communities to come to Gilchrist County and be a part of the Gilchrist County Scouts and Pack 406.

McConnell said the organization already hosts folks from multiple communities, which include: Bell, Chiefland, Old Town, Newberry and High Springs. Right now, no more than 12 people are a part of the Gilchrist County Scouts and Pack 406.

Additionally, McConnell’s son, Kurtis, who recently became an Eagle Scout, said eight people show up on a regular basis to the meetings. Kurtis received the Eagle Scout rank a couple of weeks ago after getting the final signature on his Eagle Board of Review, the last step in earning the achievement.

Tina said in order to qualify and become an Eagle Scout, a scout must complete the Eagle Project (also known as the Eagle Scout Service Project).

Kurtis carried out his Eagle Project at Fanning Springs State Park. He said on the nature trail, picnic tables went missing and that it was also “overgrown.”

“We went through (and) widened it and got rid of some overhead brush,” he said. “We built one picnic bench and fixed and replaced two benches.”

Kurtis said earning the rank of Eagle Scout is something he has been striving for his “entire life.”

“Since like second grade,” he said. “Really when I hit the troop, I really wanted to become an Eagle (Scout).”

“I wanted to get it before (age) 16, but COVID hit and things just skyrocketed,” Kurtis said. “Prices and stuff. It was really nice to get it.”

Next month, Kurtis will turn 18, which he said is when scouts “age out” in the Boys Scouts of America.

“I’m currently on the troop guide,” he said. “So, once I age out, I’m going to become an assistant scout master.”

As for the event, Tina said they are hoping to make Community Fun Day a yearly occurrence.

“I think this is really good,” she said. “I kind of based it off of when we used to do Christmas on Main Street and it was all free and it was fun and everybody would come. So, that was kind of what gave me the idea to do it with games and participation and what not.”

Tina said the Gilchrist County Scouts and Pack 406 is looking to increase its numbers.

“We need more elementary students for our pack because our pack feeds into our troop,” she said.

The organization is located at the American Legion Jamerson-Sheffield Post 91 between Trenton and Bell on U.S. Highway 129. Elementary meetings are held on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. while the middle school-high school meetings take place on Mondays at 7 p.m.

The Clambassador's First Annual Cedar Key Shark Swim set to take place Saturday

CEDAR KEY — You may have caught one or two of them. But have you ever swam amongst them?

This is what a number of people will be doing Saturday in Cedar Key, as they participate in The Clambassador’s First Annual Cedar Key Shark Swim to help raise money for Cedar Key School’s playground project.

Clambassador Michael Presley Bobbitt is the organizer behind the first annual event. He said the swim will begin at roughly 3:30 p.m. and will be taking place at the corner of G Street and First Street on the Sand Spit in Cedar Key. Those participating will be swimming from the main island across to Atsena Otie Key (also known as Sena Otie).

Bobbitt said they will be starting the swim, which is 0.42 miles long, at “extreme low tide, with a helping incoming tide.” This will allow people to wade around one-third of the way through the trip.

“We should have a helping incoming tide to help kind of shoot us across with the current,” he said.

A handful of safety precautions will be in place once the swim begins. Bobbitt said both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Coast Guard will have safety boats out on the water. Additional safety vessels will also be in the area, primarily keeping an eye out for swimmers who might find themselves in distress.

Bobbitt said clam boats are also going to be lined up “all the way across the race course.” These boats are referred to as “bird dogs,” given the vessels don’t have backs on them.

“If swimmers get tired, it will be real easy for them (to) just float right on to the back of a clam boat and sit and rest a spell,” he said.

Bobbitt said they are urging folks who may not be as strong of swimmers to bring flotation devices with them. While floats are allowed, anything powered, such as boats, kayaks or canoes, are not permitted. Bobbitt is anticipating people will have some crazy floats, including large, inflatable unicorns.

“We’re hoping for just an absolute parade of idiotic, inflatable weirdness from most folks,” he said.

According to Bobbitt, people will only have to swim – or float – one way, as shuttle boats will take everybody back to the main island once the swim is completed.

There is a $50 registration fee to participate in the swim, which includes a t-shirt with the Clambassador’s First Annual Cedar Key Shark Swim logo on it. Bobbitt said people can register in person at the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce or online at Students at Cedar Key School can take part in the swim for free. If a student would like a t-shirt, it is $20.

On the website, Bobbitt said folks can also sign up to sponsor a swimmer if they don’t want to participate in the swim and also make a donation directly to the school, as well. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the event will go towards the school’s playground project.

Furthermore, Bobbitt said they have also joined with the chamber for the organization to control all of the funds from the event.

“They are a 501C3 nonprofit entity (and) will handle all the funds and all the donations so that everyone’s donation will be tax-deductible,” he said. “They (will) be processing all (of) the finances and delivering the money directly to the school.”

In addition to the shark swim, the UF IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key will also be opening the Discovery Center Aquarium on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to a post on the Cedar Key Welcome Center’s Facebook page. People will have the opportunity to hear from a shark researcher who will be showing jaws and encouraging awareness.

Bobbitt said he has had roughly two months to put together this event since the idea first came to him. And while he was the sole organizer, he does have an ambition of it becoming something bigger.

“I’m hoping to be able to turn it over to a board of directors to make this a proper, charitable organization in future years,” he said.

The goal is for the shark swim to become a yearly occurrence in Cedar Key.

“We want to make this an annual August event that just brings the whole town together and gives us a reason to act silly and come together for some fellowship for a good cause, Bobbitt said.”

“I want my grandkids one day to be swimming across the channel,” he said.

Levy County history at a glance

176 years ago

1946 April 07 – David Levy Yulee and Nannie C. Wickliffe were married. Nannie was the daughter of Charles A. Wickliffe, a former Kentucky governor and Postmaster General under President John Tyler. Yulee’s new wife was known in Washington as the AWickliffe Madonna and was famous for her beauty and strength of character.

132 years ago

1890 October 10 – The Lebanon Baptist Church and school was established. Two acres of land was sold by E.J. Lutterloh and Horatio Davis to the Trustees of the church and school. Columbus E. Gaines; William H. Stephens; Robert T. King; Isham C. Stephens; Jonas T. Driggers; William H. Dias; and James H. Stephens for $1. The church was located in the vicinity of present day Cedars of Lebanon Cemetery.

71 years ago

1951 April 26 – The following notice appears on the front page of the LEVY COUNTY JOURNAL: $500 REWARD for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons found setting unauthorized fires on lands belonging to us. This is a standing offer and does not expire. Paterson-McInnis Lumber Company, Gulf Hammock, Florida.