Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park’s staff hopes to get help from citizens Saturday clearing the damage Hurricane Irma left behind at the park, located at 4732 Millhopper Road.
Volunteers will remove parts of the sinkhole’s boardwalk and help carry the damaged wood up the 232-step staircase from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., said Robert Steele, the park manager. The sinkhole has remained closed since the hurricane in September. He said although staff has already disassembled the bottom boardwalk since it was destroyed by flooding and landslides, the amount of wooden boards taken apart is too large for the employees to carry up.
“It’s a huge help to my staff and I,” he said. “If we had to carry all that wood up on our own, it would take us forever.”
The park staff will provide gloves and protective glasses to volunteers, Steele said. Friends of San Felasco, a citizen support group for the park, will give volunteers lunch.
While entry into the sinkhole is restricted, visitors still have access to the park’s visitor center and nature trail, which borders the top of the sinkhole, Steele said.
“This time of year, when leaves are falling off the trees, you can see all the way down to the bottom,” he said.
Elena Cabezas, a Santa Fe College physical therapist assistant senior, said she takes visiting friends and family members to the park, which is one of the her favorites in Gainesville. Cabezas, 32, plans on volunteering Saturday, and it will be the first time she visited the park since before Hurricane Irma, she wrote in an email.
“Enough of us, hopefully, will show up on Saturday, and we can get a bunch of work done,” she said.
Steele said the sinkhole has no set date to reopen, but he hopes it will be reopened by Christmas.
“Because (the boardwalk) is such a rare feature, everything that goes into the Devil’s Millhopper has to be specifically designed for this site, and that takes time,” he said.