Executive: Timothy Cartwright, chairman of the Tamiami Angel Funds and partner of Fifth Avenue Family Office, a financial consultant office in Naples. At Fifth Avenue, Cartwright is focused on venture capital, private equity and mergers and acquisitions.
Diversion: Visiting springs all over Florida, though the majority, he says, are along and north of the Interstate 4 corridor.
When he moved to Florida in 2002 from Avon Lake, Ohio, he didn’t know anything about the Florida springs. He especially didn’t know there were so many — roughly 700 natural springs.
The right stuff
Through joining Leadership Florida, a statewide leadership skills and education organization, Cartwright was able to visit various parts of Florida. One session was led by the Florida Springs Institute in High Springs. Cartwright learned about the development process, the impact urbanization of rural areas plays on the springs and upon discovering that once a spring dries up it’s gone, he says, “we’ve got to protect this natural resource.”
That’s really where his passion for the hobby stems.
“It’s important not only to think about and visit the springs,” he says, “but we do need to invest in the protection of the springs.”
The two biggest ways to do that is to cut down on fertilizers and conserve water, he adds.
That’s something Cartwright’s been able to do through the Tamiami Angel Fund, which invested in Irrigreen, based in Minnesota, three years ago. Irrigreen created a digital sprinkler head that’s designed to cut down on water waste and runoff.
Water is the reason Cartwright’s family moved to the state in the first place.
“We like being close to water,” he says. So his hobby makes perfect sense. “There is natural beauty in the springs, but there’s nothing like going swimming in (them). And when you feel the power of the water flowing out of the earth… I mean, in some springs, it’s so strong you can’t swim against that current. It’s great.”
The day of a visit, depending on how far away it is, typically starts around 7 a.m. with packing a lunch for a picnic when they first arrive.
The family might swim for a couple of hours before going kayaking or paddle boarding. “We like to do it in a day,” he says. “It makes for a long day but I think that’s one of the appeals to it. It doesn’t involve a hotel, air travel or train travel. Just throw the kayaks or paddle boards on top and go.”
Throughout his time visiting springs, one memory sticks out to Cartwright. It just happened to be one of the times his family loaded up the paddle boards.
The day at Rainbow Springs in Marion County was going smoothly for Cartwright and his family. There they were paddle boarding, minding their own business and admiring the fish in the water because the water was just that clear.
Then bam! A manatee swam by.
“Everybody lost their balance on the paddle boards,” Cartwright says. “They’re so slow moving so it’s not like there was a wake. It wasn’t underneath us. But somehow our whole family got weak in the knees.
“It was just the sheer size of this thing. All of us just went right into the water.”
Cartwright has collected a few favorite springs along the way. The list includes Three Sisters Springs on the Crystal River, Rainbow Springs and Ginnie Springs in High Springs.
“We avoid the tourist destination ones that are more well-known. There’s some really curious ones,” he says, which is how he found Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring near Williston. The spring is underground in a cave. “That one’s wild.”
Cartwright has made it as far as the Florida-Georgia line to visit a spring, at the Withlacoochee River at the Madison Blue Spring State Park.
So many springs
When Cartwright first started out in his hobby, he was ready to visit all the springs in Florida.
With three kids in elementary and middle school, reaching 700 seemed logical. Now, one has graduated college, another is in college and one is in high school, and having only reached 31 different springs, Cartwright looks at the hobby differently.
“Once my wife and I become empty nesters, we’ll still go and visit (the springs), but I really think they’re great family destinations.”
Even on the fly, the hobby has become a family tradition. The high schooler in the family is a lacrosse player on the high school team and a travel team. The travel team has tournaments throughout Florida that will end on Sunday.
“On Sunday, you’re checking out of the hotel, right?” he says. “Then you go play your lacrosse game and you’re done. Can we go back to the hotel to shower? No, we checked out. Can we jump in their swimming pool? No, we checked out.”
But that’s not a problem for Cartwright’s son. “We’ll find a spring on the way home so he can cool off from two days of playing lacrosse,” he says, adding spring water temperature averages around 72 degrees year round. “It’s the perfect, refreshing thing to do after playing two days of lacrosse in the Florida sun.”