Arts Center Exhibit Highlights Success of Polk Forever Referendum

Show Will Run in Lake Wales Through October 31


Last updated 10/19/2022 at 3:37pm

Among lands subject to preservation, and immortalized in art, are such native habitats as longleaf pine forests.

An exhibition of art inspired by nature is happening now at the Lake Wales Arts Center. The exhibit highlights the successes of the 1994 referendum with hopes of motivating the public to go out and enjoy our public lands and to encourage them to vote yes for the new referendum.

Polk Forever, a non-partisan Political Committee formed to bring back conservation funding for Polk County, is hosting the exhibit at the Arts Center. The group sees water protection and land conservation as a critical issue in the face of the rapid development occurring in Polk County, and seeks to preserve what still remains of Polk's wild lands for future generations. This is the third, and final, opening in a series of exhibits featuring artwork inspired by "Polk Environmental Lands."

At the Lake Wales Exhibit you can see paintings of moss draped live oaks on the Crooked Lake Prairie and horseback riders at Marshall Hampton Preserve, massive bronze acorns from Sumica, drawings of birds and alligators from Circle B, as well as more modern concepts like AI renderings of the scrub habitat and even contributions from some of the County's youth.

The citizens of Polk County passed a referendum in 1994 to fund conservation lands, which in turn created the Polk County Environmental Lands Program. During that 20 year program the county purchased, restored, and provided for continued maintenance of over 26,000 acres of conservation land. The County's ability to provide funding was essential to attracting matching monies, and it is estimated that about 70% of the Polk Environmental Lands projects were paid for via matching funds from other agencies.

Dozens of rare, endangered, or threatened species share the benefits of Polk's Environmental Lands Program. Voters have an opportunity to re-start the successful program in the November 8 election.

Examples of successful Environmental Lands purchases near Lake Wales are the Crooked Lake Prairie and Crooked Lake Sandhill, Walk-in-Water Creek Trail, which features oaks draped with tillandsia, resurrection fern and wild orchids, and Sumica, a piney trail where the old railroad town used to stand during timber days. Perhaps the most famous is Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland, hosts as many as 5,000 visitors a day during busy seasons. Most of these lands have recreational opportunities for the public like hiking trails, water activities, horseback trails, bird and animal watching, and educational programs. They also provide environmental functions like filtering the pollutants in surface or waste water from nearby cities, and help protect against flooding.

The show remains open until Oct 31 at the Crews Gallery of the Lake Wales Arts Center. The show at ART/ifact Gallery on Massachusetts in Lakeland will also remain open through the end of the month. Voting on the new Environmental Lands Referendum will take place on Polk's November 8th ballot. It will appear at the end of the ballot as "No. 1 Referendum" and filling in the "YES, FOR BONDS " bubble indicates a vote in support of the referendum.


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