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Nostalgia by Charles Geanangel

Over one half a century ago when I first came to Florida, the Promised Land, I was a college kid from Ohio with a bad case of wanderlust.  In 1957 the auto trip to Florida during spring break was a rite of passage for most of us in the northern universities.  I remember the excitement of entering old A1A north of Jacksonville and the drive along the beaches south to Daytona Beach. White sand as far as the eye could see, soft, warm, breezes blowing, blue sky galore, and birds everywhere, perfect for someone from the still frozen north. Shifting over to old US 27 we drove through the endless citrus groves of central Florida stopping only long enough to buy a bag of oranges to eat, merrily discarding the rinds out the window as we fled south. I can still smell the fragrant orange blossoms and taste the tangy oranges.  Remember, back then, at Christmas time we used to get oranges in our stockings as a treat. 

How the State has changed. The once beautiful beaches that flowed from coast to coast to coast are now covered with high rise apartments and strip malls, traffic is impossible, and signs of pollution are everywhere. Here in Polk County the endless orange groves have been decimated by weather, sprawling housing developments and disease. We old-timers are truly strangers in a strange land.

But there is a bright spot and it is significant.  Our Polk Counties Environmental Land Program is the envy of the entire State. Since the passage of the environmental land referendum in 1994, where we decided to tax ourselves a small amount each year for 20 years, to purchase significant amounts of land to be preserved for future generations, we have added nearly 23,000 acres of pristine habitat in over a dozen reserves. My tax bill for this program runs less than a theater ticket a year, about $7, which is a bargain by any measure.  When added to the properties purchased by the State in the Forever Florida program, more than 1/4 of the County is now protected and in public hands. My intent is to describe in future Audubon newsletters some of these properties in order to encourage you to visit what you own. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Charles Geanangel
Winter Haven





Polk Environmental Lands

A sunset view of Circle B Bar Reserve west marsh.

Croocked Lake Prairie is located in Babson Park.
© R. Munguia
Sumica is located east of Lake Wales on SR. 60.
© R. Munguia

115 Lameraux Road ∙ Winter Haven, Florida 33884 (863) 259-8497