Volunteers Needed to Help With Lake Cleanups

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 12:29 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 12:29 a.m.

The summer rains have begun and so has the consequent stormwater runoff.

It's a great time to clean up the debris that has washed into lakes or been thrown into lakes or somehow fallen or sunk there.

July, after all, is Lakes Appreciation Month.

The annual event is sponsored by the Lakes Education/Action Drive in cooperation with a number of other local organizations.

Last year, 56 volunteers spent 120 hours and collected 660 pounds from 10 lakes around Polk County.

I think it's fair to say we can do better this year.

Out of the 70 or so lakes in Polk County where there's some kind of public access and the more than half a million residents out there and the thousands who own boats, I think there's a good pool of potential volunteers.

Plus, there's nothing to stop folks who live on lakes with no public access, such as Scott Lake or Lake Lowery, from participating.

All you have to do to participate is visit any water body you wish next month, pick up any trash you find and report the results.

You can clean up along the shoreline or you can get in your boat and see what sort of jetsam and flotsam you can find in open water or on otherwise inaccessible sections of shoreline.

Because of the drought, some sections of the shorelines of some lakes still may be dry to covered with shallow water, so the search may be relatively easy.

Some of these outings are somewhat like a reverse treasure hunt.

Many years ago I gave up trying to predict all that I would find beyond the predictable cans, bottles and tires.

I've found office furniture, household goods, sports equipment, building debris and more.

If you're looking for trash, though, as I mentioned above, the best place to look is at the end of a stormwater pipe.

Whatever washes into a storm drain on a local street eventually reaches the edge of whichever lake the piping system leads to.

Sometimes more than one bag is required to deal with that.

However, if you want to participate, you don't have to kill yourself. If all you can do is go out for an hour and collect a small bag of litter, that's wonderful.

Signing up to participate is easy.

All you have to do is contact one of the participating organizations.

You can sign up with the Lakes Education Action Drive at 863-221-5323;

City of Lakeland Lakes & Stormwater Division, 863-834-8429; Lakeland Clean & Beautiful, 863-834-3306;

Keep Polk County Beautiful, 863-676-7019; or Keep Winter Haven Clean & Beautiful, 863-427-5184.

The anti-litter groups can supply you with bags and other equipment if you need them.

Just remember to report the results of your cleanup efforts.

But it your interest lies elsewhere than trash pickup, July is a good month for other lake-improvement projects if you have the inclination and access to lakefront property.

You can plan and execute a project to improve or maintain lakeshore habitat.

For instance, if you have a lakeshore infested with torpedo grass, you can uproot and replace it with something else, such as pickerelweed or sagittaria.

I would mention that some species of birds still may be on their nests or have unfledged young at this time of year, so you might want to be alert for any nest disturbance if you're doing any lakefront plant removal. The best sign is extremely agitated behavior by the adult birds.

But if birds are nesting on your lakeshore, perhaps the habitat is OK anyway, and the wild creatures are appreciating it.


Lake Wales Ridge Forest's staff is looking for volunteers to help with a tree planting project July 7.

The workday, which will run from 8 a.m. to noon, involves planting 2,500 longleaf pine and slash pine seedlings to restore damaged habitat at the forest's Arbuckle tract east of Frostproof.

Volunteers should meet at the McLean Cabin on School Bus Road.

For more information, go to

[ Tom Palmer can be reached at or 863-802-7535. Follow on Twitter @LedgerTom. ]

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