MILTON — The Arcadia Mill Archeological Site is often described as one of Milton's "hidden gems." Those gems may be gone in the near future if the 42-acre site cannot find a funding source.
Arcadia's funding approved by the state Legislature was vetoed now the non-profit's future depends on the support of private donors, according to their website.
"We lost our shirts," said Adrianne Walker, site manager at Arcadia Mill.
On an average year, the site was receiving about $350,000 for operation, labor and maintenance. The Arcadia's funding runs on a fiscal calendar from July to June. Last year, they operated on $250,000.
"Last year was a record year," Walker said. "We had 15,000 visitors, we had an 80 percent increase in tours and field trips and program attendance was up."
Arcadia has started a fundraising campaign called Dig Deep to Help Arcadia to solicit private donors. The giving levels start at $100 and go up to $5,000. In addition, Walker is looking for other legislative funding. The issues with legislative funding that Walker is looking at now are that it is non-recurring.
"We would have to apply every year with no guarantee that we could get the same amount of funding," Walker said.
Walker also said they are looking at grants. However, most grants are program- and project-driven, excluding labor and operating expenses. Arcadia Mill is the opposite in that most of their expenses are needed for labor and operating expenses.
"This is unfortunately a major setback," Walker said.
The mill and homestead site have cut their operations to two days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
The only full time paid employees at the mill are Walker and Krystal Johnson, museum educator. They work both days the mill is open and in order to avoid being laid off, the rest of their workweek is spent at Pensacola's Historic Village in downtown Pensacola.
The Arcadia Mill site, opened in 2007, has a pavilion, hiking trails and a nature trail boardwalk.
In 2016, John Ripley and his sister Suzanne Kranc donated the current home on the property to honor their mother Suzanne Fischer, who was born, lived in and died in the home.
In March 2019, after renovating the home and grounds, it was opened to the public. In July of 2019, employees, part-time landscapers and student interns were told that they were not going to be funded.
"I don't know what will happen to the property if we don't get funded," Walker said. "It would be a (University of West Florida) issue as to what happens to the 42 acre site, they own the property."