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DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk and Sumter counties of Florida


Explore, Enjoy and Protect The Planet


November 2004 Newsletter Articles



In Biology, the term "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" is widely used and refers to the fact that any intact organism, be it microbe, mouse or man, represents much more that the total of its many individual anatomical pieces. Dr. Paul Gray, our October speaker, clearly demonstrated that the same maxim holds true for one of Florida’s major and ecologically more important river systems - one that originates near Orlando and terminates at Florida Bay. Its major parts include the Green Swamp, the Kissimmee River and its upper Chain of Lakes, Lakes Okeechobee and Istapoga, and the Everglades, as well as a pair of canal/river systems that issue from opposite shores of Lake Okeechobee and empty their waters into estuaries on each of Florida’s coasts.

Dr. Gray is the Audubon coordinator for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Program and thus is particularly concerned about the quality and quantity of water in that lake. The past and continuing actions of man have greatly and negatively impacted both. Examples include the Hoover Dike, which now encircles the lake; drainage of the upper Everglades to create giant cane sugar plantations and other mega-farms; and the channelization of the Kissimmee River for flood control and to drain pasture land. Although each of these programs was initiated to benefit mankind, their impact has not been benign apparently because no one bothered to consider their effect on the entire river system. As a result of these, Lake Okeechobee now vacillates between unnatural cycles of excess volume or drought, and water quality is significantly degraded with the major pollutant being phosphate runoff from cattle ranches, dairy farms and other agricultural activities along the lake shore and the Kissimmee River.

Recent efforts by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to improve fishing habitat in Lake Toho, which is far north of Okeechobee on the Kissimmee chain, was in it self a commendable goal, but as implemented added greatly to the problem of excess volume in Lake Okeechobee. Had this excess water been released as rapidly as it had entered Okeechobee into the canal/river systems feeding coastal estuaries noted above, the salinity of these essential aquatic breeding grounds would have been diluted with devastating effect. Agricultural activities south of the lake now greatly restrict the release of excess water from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades and, moreover, further pollute the water that does enter this region of national concern.

It appears that our state and federal agencies, as currently established, are given the responsibility of regulating only specific components of major interactive and interdependent systems, akin in many ways to a living organism, but with insufficient freedom to relate to the needs of the entire system. Because we interact frequently with staff from these agencies, it’s appropriate to state clearly that almost all seem willing and able to "think outside the box" in which they have been placed. Unfortunately, the system within which they must operate and the mechanisms, which control funding of their projects, seem to effectively squelch enlightenment. Think of the impact such an arrangement would have on our own bodies if our central nervous system (brain) were to be composed of separate, non-communicating, components each rigidly assigned to control just one component of our bodies such as our hearts, lungs, kidneys, etc. Can’t we do better than this for our environment?

As soon as we take one thing by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe. John Muir, A Founder and First President of Sierra


The Friends of the Parks Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation which was established in 1993 to support our county’s parks and recreation departments in providing parks, open spaces and recreational services; and to promote gifts and donations from individuals, organizations and private industry. Our own Marian Ryan was recently elected President of the foundation.

Friends of the Parks can help all Polk County parks and recreation agencies, including our environmental lands properties, to:

  • Secure funds for parks and recreation programs without bureaucratic entanglement.
  • Provide a forum for discussion and opportunities for citizen involvement.
  • Promote public awareness of the value and benefit of parks and recreation programs.
  • Encourage the acquisition of green spaces and help provide for the enhancement of public parks.
  • Assist with special events and ongoing projects.
  • Provide management assistance through the Adopt-A-Park Program

For information about Friends of the Parks visit their website: friends-of-the-park.

Recovery Plan for Peace River Flow will be presented by Mark Hammond, Director, Resource Management Dept., SWFWMD at 12:00 noon November 18 at the Lakeland Public Library on Lake Morton Drive. Lunch will be available; the meeting is sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

The flow of the Peace River has been low (sometimes non existent) between Bartow and Zolpho Springs for many years - largely due to over pumping. The legislature has mandated that the water management district develop a recovery plan to preserve the historic function of the river. The first part of the district’s plan deals with raising the level of Lake Hancock so that extra water can be stored for release when needed.


For the loved one who 'has everything,' how about a unique nature-related gift? Nesting boxes (see picture on the front page) will attract owls as well as ducks; they can be placed in yards not particularly close to lakes and rivers. For a $35 donation, if you place your order by Nov. 20th, Bob (863 439-2251) can have a beautifully constructed cypress box ready for you by Christmas.

picture Copyright © 2004, Frances H. Coleman, All Rights Reserved

The graphics company can have our wood duck t-shirt order ready by the Christmas party (Dec. 9th) if we place our order (Frances at 863 956-3771) by Nov.26th. Cost of a shirt is less than $10 - all donations above costs for the shirts or boxes will be forwarded to the Richard Coleman Scholarship Fund. Browse our web site to see the t-shirts in gorgeous color!

...Frances H. Coleman



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masthead picture: Dr. Gray recognized , published with permission
Copyright © 2003, Dr. Gray recognizedFrances H. Coleman

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