Hilochee Will Be Topic Thursday

Mike Blondin, who oversees Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in Polk and Lake counties, will be the guest speaker at the next meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at Circle B Bar Reserve.

The Polk section of Hilochee, known as the Osprey Unit, lies between County Road 557 and U.S. 27 along Interstate 4 in the Green Swamp Area of Critical Concern .

The property was originally planned to be developed into an industrial park.

There is seasonal hunting here. The site is open all year for day use for hiking, nature study, bicycling, bank fishing and horseback riding.

One of the issues raised in the latest review of the property’s management plan is what options there are for increasing public recreational access and increasing parking for day use.

Wildlife on the site includes Sandhill Cranes, Gopher Tortoise, Wild Turkey, various wading birds and a number of songbirds. Hilochee also has a good butterfly population.

The property, along with other conservation lands, was unsuccessfully proposed for surplussing by state officials a few years ago, but it remained in public ownership.

Do You Know What Toxins Region’s Stacks, Pipes Are Spewing?

There’s been a lot of discussion about the sinkhole in the gypsum stack at Mosaic’s New Wales fertilizer plant, but what do you know about the hazardous chemicals that are being released by local industrial plants every year.

The database is called the Toxic Release Inventory. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues it annually, though there’s a time lag.

The most recent report is for chemicals released in 2015.

It is searchable down to the county level geographically and also by industrial sector (power plants, manufacturing plants etc.)

The most recent report lists the following totals (in pounds) for counties in the area.

Polk: 4,309,229

Sumter: 280,950

Highlands: 61,156

Lake: 34,160

Hardee: 20,594

DeSoto: 0

Fertilizer plants such as the New Wales plant and power plants, particularly Lakeland’s coal-burning McIntosh plant, make up most of Polk’s totals.

Go to this link https://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_release.chemical and work down to whichever county or industry or chemical or combination of any of those that interest you.

One thing on the data. It is often to make a direct connection between emissions and environmental or health threats without additional analysis.

A separate listing called Right to Know lists the amount of chemicals of certain types and in amounts above specified threshold amounts that are stored at local industrial plants.

These disclosures trace their inception to the Bhopal chemical disaster at the Union Carbide plant in 1984.

Got Ideas For Polk’s Charter? Read This

The County Commission is planning a work session for 9 a.m. April 11 in Room 407. One of the topics will be the appointment of members to the next Charter Review Commission.

Under the charter, which you can read under the Government tab on the Polk County Government website, the new charter review panel must be appointed by July 1.

If you’d like to be considered for a seat on the panel, now’s the time to put your name in.

It will have 13 members. County Commission Chair Melony Bell will appoint three members. The other four county commissioners will appoint two each. The remaining two members will be appointed by the county’s constitutional officers.

The Charter Review Commission’s meetings are open to the public. Its final report is due July 1, 2018.

It is not obligated to recommend any changes to the charter and the last review panel strongly resisted putting most amendments suggested on the ballot.

Some of the changes suggested in the past included expanded the number of commissioners, making the seats non-partisan and asking voters to reconsider a decision made in 2000 to restrict commission pay to half of what is allowed under state law.

Any proposed charter changes would be placed on the November 2018 ballot and would not take effect unless approved by the voters.

County Recycling Survey Coming

If you live in unincorporated Polk County—that’s the area outside the city limits where the majority of county residents live—Polk County Waste & Recycling wants to know about your recycling preferences.

The survey will come in post cards that are being mailed to county garbage customers.

Here’s the background.

Beginning Oct. 1 Polk County will have new garbage companies, new garbage rates (probably an increase, but that has yet to be determined) and recycling carts instead of recycling bins.

However, the recycling carts—you can pick the size you want—will go only to people who ask for them. This is a financial decision as well as a customer service decision.

That is, it will eliminate unnecessary spending on unneeded recycling carts and will not generate complaints about unwanted carts. Additionally, that should reduce if not eliminate the problem that has occurred in other counties. That problem is that some residents were filling their recycling carts with household garbage instead of recyclables.

There will also have to be some education to make sure the new system goes smoothly.

One major change is the elimination of glass recycling.

Let me repeat, Trump-like for emphasis. PUT YOUR GLASS JARS AND BOTTLES IN THE GARBAGE CART, NOT THE RECYCLING CART AFTER OCT. 1.

The reason glass is being banned is because it has no market value and the broken glass contaminates other materials, particularly paper products, lowering their market value.

Also, here’s an early reminder of other materials that don’t go in the recycling carts or bins. The main ones are plastic bags and polystyrene (often incorrectly referred to as Styrofoam, which is another material).

Scott Looking For New Parks Head

Gov. Rick Scott is looking for a new person to head the state park system after Lisa Edgar, who was named to the position in December, has resigned.

Her resignation was because of a “family emergency,” SaintPetersBlog reported today.

Edgar was hired after long-time career parks director Don Forgione was abruptly reassigned to oversee just one state park in December.

The still unanswered question is what kind of policy changes, if any, will whoever takes over as head of Florida’s park system will make, at least in the remaining two years of the Scott administration.

Scott has attempted to commercialize operations in some parks and also proposed selling off as surplus conservation lands outside the park system.

Lake Kissimmee SP bridge topic of meeting

If you have visited Lake Kissimmee State Park recently, you may have noticed some construction along the Zipprer Canal.

There are two things going on. One is construction of a new water control structure on this canal between Lake Rosalie and Lake Kissimmee. Next will be construction of a new bridge across the canal.

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. March 14 in the pavilion near the park’s marina to explain the project.

The current bridge is substandard, according to an evaluation of local bridges FDOT conducted a few years ago. It, for instance, cannot be used by heavy vehicles, such as fire trucks. (Interestingly, I was at the park one day and saw a Polk County fire truck parked near the bridge while the crew walked over the park’s cow camp.)

The old bridge will remain because it is considered historic, according to park officials. The new bridge will span the canal nearby.

For additional information, contact project manager Andra Diggs at Andra.Diggs@dot.state.fl.us .

 

Another Green Swamp Intense Recreation Foray

It never ends.

Polk County Code Enforcement has taken action to deal with violations of the Green Swamp regulations on a group of parcels near the intersection of Deen Stilll Road and Sweet Hill Road north of Lake Alfred.

The violations involved bringing in fill to establish a dirt bike course of some sort on property owned by Anthony and Wendy Greedy, who live in the United Kingdom, according to Polk County property records.

I visited the site. The property appears to be up for sale, according to signs posted at the entrance.

This is the latest in a series of attempts to introduce this kind of intense activity into the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern.

In 2007 some ATV enthusiasts attempted to launch something called the Sweet Hill Thrill in a section of Groveland Acres, one of a large number of platted, but undevelopable subdivisions that were carved out of swampland and marketed and remarketed to investors from abroad and out of state using the lure of proximity to Disney.

More recently Polk code enforcement officials have taken action to deal with this Deen Stilll Road facility and another off Old Polk City Road south of Interstate 4.

This is not only an environmental offense, it is also an offense to taxpayers.

Three of the parcels involved in the Deen Still Road case were given agricultural classifications for alleged “hayfields” on parts of the parcels, which resulted in the exemption of real estate assessed at $45,642 on the county tax roll, despite the seeming absence of any haying operation on a site destined for motocross.

The effect of this classification, which is common in Polk County on the flimsiest of standards, meant that about $650 didn’t’ go to support county government, parks, libraries or schools.