Non-profit Spotlight: LE/AD Lakes Education / Action Drive

Non-profit Spotlight: LE/AD Lakes Education / Action Drive

Be a LEADer for a healthy environment.Most folks would agree that lakes provide many benefits. They house numerous species of flora and fauna, provide a wide array of recreational opportunities, and increase the value and beauty of the landscape. But what some people may not be aware of is the fact that lakes and ponds have a life cycle. Whether lakes live a long and healthy life or suffer an early demise depends very much on human behaviors such as paving, ground disturbance, over fertilizing and other activities. That’s where the Lakes Education Action Drive (LE/AD) comes in. Our mission is to create an awareness and appreciation of our lakes and watersheds and to promote their protection and wise use.

LE/AD got its start in 1985 when the City of Lakeland was seeking a public lakes education program to help inform and educate citizens and visitors about the local lakes and what could be done to protect them. Since those early years, LE/AD has grown and continues to reach people through our Watershed Education Program. Lake clean-ups, workshops, special events and public speaking are just a few of the activities LE/AD provides to anyone and everyone who cares to learn more about our precious natural resources.

LE/AD is a non-profit organization and depends on memberships, charitable contributions and funding through various grants if we are to continue in our efforts to inform citizens about the importance of their everyday activities and how they can help or harm our watersheds.

Every person can and does make a difference when it comes to water quality and a healthy environment.  Whether the difference is positive or negative depends on each individual. Polk County residents are fortunate to live in an area that is blessed with more than 500 lakes and water bodies. Within our boundaries are the headwaters to the Peace River and portions of the Alafia and Hillsborough River watersheds. These areas, which include our treasured lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands, need our protection if we want our children and future generations to enjoy the same benefits as we do.

LE/AD’s goals include increasing public awareness regarding water resources, habitat loss, invasive exotic species, flood control issues from storm water runoff, pet waste issues, and how citizens can make a difference by adopting positive behaviors and understanding the issues concerning our watersheds.

For almost 30 years, with the help of funding from the City of Lakeland, Polk County, the City of Winter Haven, and our valued members, LE/AD has sponsored and participated in numerous educational and outreach programs such as:

• Living at the Lakes Workshops – A series of free workshops that inform residents about lakes and what can be done to protect them.

• Lake Clean-ups:  Participant in Project E.A.G.L.E. (Enhancing a Greater Living Environment), a county-wide lake clean-up.   Lakes Appreciation Month – July of every year local residents choose a lake and clean it up and report the amount of trash picked up. Included in the festivities are environmental exhibitors and educational opportunities for kids and adults.

• Cardboard Boat Race Challenge:  September of every year, participants design, construct and race a boat made from cardboard around a course in Lake Hollingsworth.  Included in the festivities are environmental exhibitors and educational opportunities for kids and adults.

• Lakeside signage placed on various lakes in Polk County that inform visitors about the lakes, watersheds, stormwater run-off, plants, wildlife and other environmental factors regarding water bodies

• Pet Waste Program – LE/AD has acquired funds to enable the City of Lakeland to install pet waste stations to be placed near lakes in an effort to reduce fecal matter in stormwater runoff.

• Speakers Bureau – LE/AD is involved in presenting and speaking to school children, organizations, civic groups and others that request this service.  LE/AD also attends various environmental programs such as the Tenoroc Nature Fest, 7 Rivers Water Festival and others.

• Newsletters- LE/AD creates and sends out a quarterly newsletter. The Lakes LEAD/ER is sent to over 500 people each quarter. It includes articles from local experts about water quality and issues in Polk County as well as other interesting facts, upcoming events and how each person can help protect our watersheds.

July is a great time to enjoy Polk County’s lakes and water bodies. Of course, we value our lakes year round, but July is special because it’s Lakes Appreciation Month. The North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) sponsors a nationwide Lakes Appreciation Month each July to draw attention to the value and importance of lakes and reservoirs. LE/AD is involved in our very own countywide lake clean up. Why not join in the fun and pick a lake to clean up this July? You’ll receive a gift card for your volunteerism and the joy of knowing you are helping the environment. Just get in touch with us and we’ll get you registered! You pick the time and the lake.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term lead as “to guide on a way especially by going in advance; to direct on a course or in a direction.” LE/AD depends on people like you to do just that by joining in the quest to educate and reach out to others. It doesn’t take a lot of effort and the benefits are countless. Leave the planet better than you found it, become a LEADer today by filling out the membership application available on the Lakes Education / Action website or email us at or call Corine at 863-221-5323 for more information about how to get involved.