TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) commissioners approved the first Springs Protection Zone in Florida on Thursday.

The rule establishes the zone for Nichols Spring and its associated spring run in Sumter County.

Anchoring, mooring, beaching and grounding of vessels were found to have caused harm to bank vegetation, cypress trees and aquatic grasses in and around the spring, according to FWC.

Those activities will no longer be allowed within the Springs Protection Zone.

Commissioners established the criteria and process used to create Springs Protection Zones at its Dec. 2021 meeting.

“FWC staff coordinated with Sumter County officials, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Department of Environmental Protection to review whether Nichols Spring met the criteria for the creation of a Springs Protection Zone and held a public meeting for interested parties before approval,” FWC wrote in a press release.

The public will still be able to visit Nichols Spring and will be able to anchor a vessel outside of the protection zone and swim through the small spring run and into the spring.

Tubes and rafts are not considered vessels in Florida and can still be used in the spring.