Heritage Volunteers Landscape McLaughlin Campus in Driving Rain
Effort Placed More Than 40 Trees on Expanding Campus
Last updated 1/3/2024 at 9:02am
Lake Wales got a good bit greener last Saturday, not only because of welcome rains, but due to the efforts of a team of volunteers from Lake Wales Heritage who braved the damp to landscape the campus of McLaughlin Middle/High School. In a six-hour effort the group planted more than 40 trees on school grounds.
"It was a day of bonding for the volunteers, a really rainy day" for the thoroughly saturated group of volunteers, said Heritage Vice President Ron Poller. "It was an effort to help bring McLaughlin School into the future."
Lake Wales Heritage is a local non-profit working to plant trees across the city to help recreate the "City in a Garden" Envisioned by Edward Bok and the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. a century ago. Olmsted created the plans for the city's streetscapes shortly after completing his work designing the famous Mountain Lake Sanctuary, today's Bok Tower Gardens.
The project was conducted as a memorial to Lee Alexander Wheeler III, known as Alex. Wheeler, a former city commissioner, mayor, and school board member, was also treasurer of the Heritage organization. He was part of the first student body to attend school at the present McLaughlin campus in 1964 and passed away three years ago.
"I love this day, this is the greatest day to plant!" said volunteer Ryan Kordek.
The new Longleaf pines and southern Live Oak, along with flowering species including crepe myrtle and tabebuia, were planted along both 4th Street and Winston Avenue sides of the school. They will eventually help shade a large new parking lot and the new sidewalk recently added to 4th Street.
The effort more than replaced the trees that have been removed during the ongoing construction there. New buildings and parking facilities are being added to the campus at 800 South 4th Street to accommodate the expansion to include a high school.
Heritage projects have already resulted in more than 20 blocks of new street trees around the city, but an extended drought earlier this year resulted in the loss of more than a dozen young trees, which the group plans to replant. Volunteers involved in Saturday's planting, in addition to Poller and Kordek, included Preston Troutman, Robert Connors, David Thurlo, and Chanda Bennett.
Lake Wales Heritage also conducts a "Student Naturalist" program funded by a grant from Mountain Lake Community Service. The course teaches area students about the city's unique history and environment, along with the people who shaped it.