City Fills Vacant Horticulturist Position As Downtown Tree Planting Approaches
Kevin Polk Formerly Oversaw Lakeland's Hollis Gardens
Last updated 10/23/2023 at 11:10pm
As the City of Lake Wales prepares to begin a major tree-planting effort as part of the Lake Wales Connected effort, a long-vacant horticulturist spot has been filled by a long-time Lakeland gardening expert.
Kevin Polk, a certified horticulturist who spent several years supervising the landscape at the City of Lakeland's Hollis Gardens, will take the reins overseeing plans to revive the landscapes in the city's historic core.
After spending years reviving the 1928 landscape designs in the well-known Lakeland park, Polk was promoted to oversee all of Lakeland's streetscape and park design.
Polk's new challenge will be assuring the success of the extensive plantings intended to create a pedestrian-friendly environment in the city's downtown and northwest neighborhood. The Lake Wales Connected plan is under construction as Park Avenue is being converted to a shaded oasis featuring wide sidewalks, brick streets, and lots of new shade trees.
Lake Wales offers Polk a rare opportunity to work with the town's original landscape designs, which were created by the famous firm of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Olmsted also created the landscapes of the residential enclave of Mountain Lake and Bok Tower Gardens.
"The history of landscape architecture in Lake Wales is unique," Polk said. "I plan to make each landscape unique and aesthetically beautiful while keeping the historical charm of Lake Wales."
"Kevin's skill sets and experience will help us restore the once legendary landscapes in Central Florida," said Lake Wales City Manager James Slaton.
Polk will also be responsible for working with the city's Tree Advisory Board, directing efforts at maintaining the existing tree canopy and identify potentially-hazardous trees.
The local Olmsted conservancy, Lake Wales Heritage, is also working to replant hundreds of missing trees included in the original plans, which were commissioned by Edward Bok shortly after the completion of Bok Tower Gardens. "We are looking forward to working with Kevin on the Olmsted designs and finish the streetscape plan as it was intended," said Heritage president Robert Connors. "We have long advocated for the position of city horticulturist, and see this as an important step forward."
"We're creating a 'City in a Garden', and Kevin will help us fulfill that goal," said Parks & Recreation Manager Stephanie Lutton. Lutton has led a search for a replacement after the resignation of the city's prior horticulturist.
"Our long-range parks & recreation master plan includes new trails, enhanced parks and botanical-rich environments," Lutton added.
Polk is a horticulture professional certified by the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association. He has earned a B.A. in business management from the University of South Florida and a certification in public administration from Florida State University.