Water-Related News

Lakes Education/Action Drive Turns 30

Lakeland’s lakes weren’t getting much attention 30 years ago. Many of the shorelines were infested with cattails.

Water quality was declining as the result of years of poorly regulated sewer discharges and stormwater runoff.

Some members of the public were beginning to notice and wanted to do something about it. In response, Lakeland officials decided to mobilize the public to gain support for lake improvement. That led to the formation of the Lakes Education/Action Drive on Sept. 17, 1985.

Then-Mayor Tom Shaw proclaimed Oct. 7-13, 1985, Lakes Education/Action Drive Week, giving the effort an early boost. The organization, which relies primarily on volunteers, has been most active in trying to educate the public about caring for lakes ever since.

Although in the early years its efforts concentrated on Lakeland’s lakes, LE/AD eventually became a more countywide organization. One of the early efforts was to educate the public about the connection between their daily activities and the condition of nearby lakes. That included the perennial effort to try to keep residents and the yard maintenance services they hire from blowing or raking grass clippings and leaves into storm drains because that debris and the nutrients it contains eventually reached the nearest lake.

Signs were placed near the entrance to many urban storm drains to reinforce that point.

In more recent years LE/AD has installed stations to allow pet owners who walk their pets near lakes to properly dispose of pet waste so it doesn’t end up in the lake, either.

In addition, LE/AD raised funds to install educational displays along lakefronts around the city and elsewhere around the county. Today 65 of those signs have been erected. LE/AD has also sponsored some one-day conferences on the problems facing local lakes and what can be done to improve the situation.