Re-Blogged from the University of Florida, IFAS….

Today, like every June 8 since 1992, many people around the globe celebrate World Oceans Day. This event was created to advocate and inspire people, communities, and nations to take action on the sustainable use, protection, conservation, and preservation of the oceans and their inhabitants.

Every year, there is a theme for World Ocean Day. This year’s theme is “revitalization: collective action for the ocean.” This theme recognizes that people around the globe need to work together to protect our oceans. And we should be on it; after all, the oceans produce at least half of the world’s oxygen, feed billions of people, contribute to the world economy, and host the most biodiversity on Earth.

Therefore, I am challenging you to join me to help revitalize our oceans by being part of the solution to a global problem; the problem of marine debris, especially the problem of plastic pollution. Plastics are the most common form of marine debris.

Marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned in the marine environment or the Great Lakes. In other words, products created by us that end up in the oceans.

Among the impacts of marine debris are damage to habitats, economic loss, damage to infrastructure, navigation hazards, facilitation of transport of invasive species, and negative impacts on human health and wildlife.

The great news is that there are many things that you can do from where you are to help and take action. Things that you can put into action at home, at school, at the store, on the water, and the shore, and that will make a big difference in our efforts to help our oceans, and to help ourselves.

Happy World Oceans Day. Say no to single-use plastic products. Do your part. And, enjoy the oceans.

Posted: June 8, 2022

Re-Blogged from the University of Florida, IFAS.

Everything Grows

Recently while singing Raffi’s, “Everything Grows” with my two boys, my oldest said, “no it doesn’t…fire hydrants don’t grow. Signs don’t, fences don’t, doors don’t…” Despite his snarky, yet funny observation, I reflected on the stanza, “food on the farm, fish in the sea, birds in the air, leaves on the tree. Everything grows, anyone knows, that’s how it goes.” Our gardens are one of the most powerful parts of our landscapes. Everything in our gardens grows – food, birds, plants, trees, and even ourselves.

In previous articles, we explored the power of gardening. Gardens we cultivate also cultivate physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual benefits. For our summer gardening article series, “In the Garden, We Grow,” we will explore all the ins-and-outs vegetable gardening, so we too may grow.

Starting at the Beginning

The most common gardens in Florida are in-ground, raised beds, or containers. Hydroponics and aquaponics exist too, but that is a bigger topic for a different day. Most homeowners find success with raised bed gardens or container gardens due to Florida’s sandy soils. To select a location for a garden, find an area that gives approximately 6-8 hours of sun, is near a water source, and is away from buildings and trees.

If it is your first-time gardening, start small. Containers are a great first step into gardening or an alternative for anyone living in an apartment, condo, or townhome. If you have the ability to build a raised bed, start with a three-by-three foot raised bed with a 12”-18” depth. Of course, feel free to build a garden bed that works best for you. If bending over is difficult, build taller beds. To reduce the amount of soil needed to fill taller beds, first fill the beds with large logs and then fill the remaining space with soil.


Like all gardening, our success starts with our soil. When starting a raised bed, a general recommendation is the 1:1:1 ratio of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. A 3’x3’x18” vegetable bed requires 13.5 cubic feet of soil, which translates to 4.5 cubic feet of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. Mix your soil well, put it into your raised bed, and you have a reliably strong foundation to start your garden!


To water your vegetable garden, you may install micro-irrigation or you may water it by hand. Please water in the morning to allow any excess water on the leaves to dry throughout the day. This helps reduce water use and reduces the threat of fungal issues developing in your garden.


With any garden, pests can be a nuisance. Scout regularly, treat early, and rotate plants around your garden. Remove pests by hand, but if you have a prolific pest problem, try insecticidal soaps, neem oil, or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). These pesticides are generally considered safe and should manage most garden pests.


To help with your vegetable garden, you can fertilize. Fertilize after you completed a soil test and right before planting. You may side-dress as your vegetables and fruits grow.

Planning our Gardens

Due to our warmer seasons, you can have a productive garden all year. As we continue our “In the Garden, We Grow” article series, we will explore the different plants, pests, and other fun gardening strategies. So, feel free to start your garden, explore, and experiment. Sometimes we try something in our gardens that does not work but that is ok. For as long as we continually try new things and share with our community, we grow too.


Posted: June 8, 2022

Re-Blogged via the Florida Department of Environmental Protection……


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Ron DeSantis signed a proclamation declaring June as Great Outdoors Month in Florida. The Governor’s proclamation honors Florida’s abundant natural resources and the nation’s best recreational opportunities, provided by the state’s waters, trails, public lands and parks.

Great Outdoors Month is celebrated across the country each June to spotlight not only the beauty and wonder of our lands but also the health and economic benefits they provide.

From vibrant coral reefs and white-sand beaches to clear, natural springs, ambling rivers and peaceful pine forests, the state of Florida offers a myriad of opportunities to connect with nature and explore outdoors. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service and Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection are committed to providing visitors with unforgettable experiences and lifelong memories.

“This Great Outdoors Month, we welcome you to come experience …the Real Florida and see why Florida is the only recipient of four National Gold Medals for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management,” said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “An adventure awaits you at any of Florida’s 175 state parks, 42 aquatic preserves and three national estuarine research reserves.”

With families preparing for summer fun, June is the perfect time to enjoy the natural beauty of Florida. Florida’s state parks, trails and aquatic preserves offer opportunities to camp, hike, paddle along pristine waterways, enjoy local flora and fauna, and more.

Activities during Great Outdoors Month in Florida include: 

Learn more about Florida’s state parks, trails, aquatic preserves and national estuarine research reserves at


Danny Kushmer, Executive Director

Content provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Signs of spring – balmy weather, blooming flowers and nesting birds – are occurring throughout Florida. Warmer temperatures also mean alligators are more active and visible. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recommends taking precautions when in and around the water and has expanded its safety materials to include a video and infographic in Spanish.

While serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida, the FWC offers the following tips about how to safely co-exist with them:

  • Keep a safe distance if you see an alligator and never feed one. When fed, alligators can lose their natural wariness and instead learn to associate people with the availability of food.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
  • Keep pets on a leash and away from the water’s edge and never let them swim in fresh or brackish water. Pets often resemble alligators’ natural prey.
  • Call the FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) if you believe an alligator poses a threat to people, pets or property and the FWC will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation. The FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) to proactively address alligator threats in developed areas, while conserving alligators in areas where they naturally occur.
  • Find more resources about living with alligators and Spanish translation information tools at

The American alligator, Florida’s state reptile, is a conservation success story. Florida has a healthy and stable alligator population, which is estimated at 1.3 million alligators of every size. They are found in freshwater lakes, ponds, swamps and slow-moving rivers in all 67 counties in Florida.

Lakes Education/Action Drive is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the natural beauty and quality of lakes in Polk County, Florida.

Established in 1985, LE/AD has taken an active role in the pursuit to preserve our lakes and environmental resources. Lakes are ecologically and economically valuable, and our lakes deserve our care and protection. In addition, LE/AD encourages residents to take advantage of the many excellent opportunities our lakes provide.


The Board of Directors of LE/AD wants to thank the Southwest Florida Water Management District for partnering with us in replacing educational signage at Twin Lakes in Lake Alfred.

Over the years, LE/AD has taken the er…Lead in placing educational signage at various lakes throughout Polk County. Many of these signs are in need of replacement and the Twin Lakes is where we started.

New signs at Twin Lakes

At the bottom of this post you can see the old signs and why they needed to be replaced. But, here are the graphics up-close.

Again, thank you very much Southwest Florida Water Management District for your generous support!

Old Signage

Danny Kushmer



Join Us on May 14, 2022 for the Lakeland Cardboard Boat Challenge & Lakeshore Festival

  • On-Site Built Registration 8 A.M. – 8:30 A.M.
  • Cardboard Boat Building On-site 8:30 A.M. – 10:00 A.M.
  • Pre-Built Registration 9:00 A.M. – 9:30 A.M.
  • Race Starts at 10:00 am

Purchase Entries Here

This event helps raise awareness about our water resources and how we all must play a role in protecting them. People can reduce their impact on the environment through the lifestyle choices they make every day. Celebrate our lakes and join the fun!

To reinforce the reason behind this event the theme of your cardboard boats need to have a “Lakes” awareness theme. Each team must name their boat with a Lakes awareness theme, and turn in a short bio explaining the name choice to be announced prior to launch. Register your team, create a boat out of cardboard and duct tape, and race to the finish line. Environmental Exhibitors will provide children’s activities, information on ways to protect our lakes, water ways and other environmental fun facts.


To build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape, and then put 2 people inside to race around a course, be the first to make it across the finish line without sinking.


On-Site Built Groups: Cardboard boats are built on site, the morning of the event, and all supplies are provided.

Race teams will be in the following divisions:

  • Community/Corporate: Both paddlers must be 18 years of age or older to paddle the boat.
  • Youth: Must be elementary/middle/high school age youth to build or paddle the boat. Both paddlers will need to be under 18 years of age. Teams must have an adult to supervise construction and handling of knives.
  • Family Team: Must have at least one child between the ages of five and 18 paddling and an adult supervising the construction and handling of knives. The second paddler is over the age of 18.

Pre-Built Groups: Cardboard boats are built before the event, and teams must provide their own supplies.

Race teams will be in the following divisions:

  • Community/Corporate: Both paddlers must be 18 years of age or older to paddle the boat.
  • Youth: Must be elementary/middle/high school age youth to build or paddle the boat. Both paddlers will need to be under 18 years of age. Teams must have an adult to supervise construction and handling of knives.
  • Family Team: Must have at least one child between the ages of five and 18 paddling and an adult supervising the construction and handling of knives. The second paddler is over the age of 18.

Cardboard Boat Challenge Rules:

The Challenge: To design, construct and race a boat made of cardboard across a body of water.

Objectives: The boat should float, carry lots of weight, go fast and Raise Lake Awareness.

Team Guidelines:

  1. Minimum of four and maximum of 10 people. Only two members will set sail in the boat.
  2. Race teams will be in the following divisions, (these apply to both Pre-built and On-site Built Boats):
  • Community/Corporate: Must be 18 years of age or older to build and/or paddle the boat.
  • Youth: Must be elementary/middle/high school age youth to build or paddle the boat. Teams must have an adult to supervise construction and handling of knives.
  • Family Team: Must have at least one child between the ages of five and 18 paddling and an adult supervising the construction and handling of knives.
  1. Each team must designate a team captain and provide a boat name (with a lakes awareness theme). Team captains will be the only ones allowed to sign the team in the day of the race.
  2. Teams are encouraged to have a cheering squad of friends, family and associates supporting them at the challenge event. Supporters are encouraged to bring banners and mascots to cheer on the teams.
  3. Two team members will power your team’s boat. While aboard your boat, each sailor must wear an approved life jacket (provided for you or you may bring your own).
  4. Your team will be given two oars to propel your boat. Team members cannot place their hands or feet in the water to steer or navigate. This will result in disqualification.
  5. The committee reserves the right to disqualify teams that are deemed inappropriate for a family event.
  6. The committee reserves the right to adjust team category as necessary.


  • Preparation – It is recommended to dedicate time for designing the boat before the day of the race, but you can “wing it” and still make it just fine!
  • On-Site Cardboard Boat Building – Approximately 1 ½ hours to build the boat.
  • Racing – Approximately 1.5 hours to race the boats in heats of teams. We will end with a “survivors” race. (Depending on the number of teams in each division, multiple heats may be necessary and winner will be determined by best time in overall division.)
  • Awards and Cleanup – Thirty minutes for awards and final cleanup. Each team is to place boat and remnants in dumpster.

Overall Judging is based on: Speed – how you place in the race.

Specialty Awards: Design and construction ― be creative and have a blast!

  • LE/AD’er in Lakes Awareness – The boat and team that does the best job in promoting Lake Awareness
  • Spirit Award – given to the team that shows the most spirit
  • Survivor Award – This is the winner of the final Survivors Race (if there are multiple heats the 1st & 2nd place winners will be invited to the final showdown for the Survivors Award.)
  • Titanic Award – the team that has the best sinking boat!
  • People’s Choice (Pre-built boats only) – Be creative and attract the votes of the crowd.

On-Site Boat Building Rules

  1. Only those tools and materials we provide may be used, and you cannot exchange supplies with other teams!
  2. Teams that do not return all construction tools (utility knives, yardsticks, pencils, markers) will be eliminated from the challenge.

Tools and Materials (All tools and materials will be provided to you on race day.):

8 sheets cardboard 2 utility knives

2 yardsticks 2 pencils

1 pack of markers to decorate boat 2 life jackets

3 rolls duct tape 2 oars

* No other tools or equipment may be used during the construction or racing of the boat.

Pre-Built Boat Building Rules

  1. The boat may be no more than four (4) meters long.
  2. Participants must procure their own building materials and supplies.
  3. The boat must be made entirely of corrugated cardboard. This includes the hull, superstructure, seats or any other functional part of the boat. You may add items that are not made from corrugated cardboard for decorative purposes only; provided any such items otherwise comply with these rules and are environmentally friendly.
  4. You may use only corrugated cardboard for any functional part of the boat. Any thickness is permitted. You may not use any type of cardboard other than corrugated cardboard (e.g., carpet tubes, spools, composite papers, etc.), unless such use is strictly decorative.
  5. You may use water-soluble single-part glue.
  6. You may use latex (water based) paints, caulks or sealers.
  7. Any glue, paints, caulks or sealers used on the boat must be environmentally friendly and dry as of the start of the race.
  8. The boat must be free of any sharp edges, pointed objects, or any other material that could cause injury, either to the occupants of the boat, or other participants.
  9. You absolutely may not use any tar based substances, two-part varnishes, two-part epoxies, fiberglass resin, or any other two-part or catalyzed substance, or any corrugated cardboard that is bonded to any material other than more corrugated cardboard.
  10. All boats must be propelled only by the passengers, using paddles. Paddles will be available at the race, or you may bring your own paddles. All paddles must be hand held and not affixed to the boat in any way. No oar locks or other fixed-fulcrum paddles! No motors of any type!
  11. The organizers have the right to disqualify, or require modification of, any boat at anytime if the organizers decide, in their sole discretion: (i) that any part of a boat violates the rules set forth above, (ii) any boat or portion thereof otherwise poses a safety risk; (iii) that the boat is composed of any non-environmentally friendly material; or (iv) that any part of the boat is in bad taste or offensive in any manner.
The Board of Directors of LEAD in partnership with Polk County and the City of Winter Haven is happy to announce the inaugural 7 River Water Festival 5k.


Location: Downtown Winter Haven, Florida
Date: Saturday, September 18, 2021
Time: 7:30AM – 9:00 AM

Now taking applications for sponsorship

Evidence points to the fact that children gain their most powerful understanding of their natural environment through exploring it for themselves. However, within formal education, educators are often hampered from facilitating this exploration beyond the classroom by the pressures of the curriculum, health and safety concerns, and restricted budgets.  LE/AD, with help from a grant from the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation and its fundholders and Polk County Parks and Natural Resources is bridging the gap on this issue by offering a program to youth groups in Polk County.  This program will consist of:

1. A field trip to Circle B Bar Reserve, where the children will participate in many outdoor hands-on activities including dip-netting, hiking and bandana rubbing.

2. Participants in the afterschool program will have the opportunity to enter into a poster contest to describe what they learned during the sessions.  The contest will be judged by members of the LE/AD Board of Directors and the top three selections will be awarded prizes.

Funding Partner

The GiveWell Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity serving Polk, Hardee, and Highlands counties in Central Florida. The Community Foundation holds more than 300 charitable funds established by individuals, families, organizations, and private foundations and serves a wide variety of charitable services.

For more than 20 years, the GiveWell Community Foundation and its fundholders have been investing in the future of our communities through impactful, philanthropic giving.


LE/AD will provide programs to community partners with limited budgets in Polk County.  This program would consist of minimum of 10 groups participating in:

  1. An interactive, hands-on learning experience field trip, where the children will participate in many outdoor activities including dip-netting, hiking and bandana rubbing.  They will learn each phase of the water cycle and the importance of water conservation. An on-site hands-on learning experience with the watershed model that shows how fertilizers, pesticides, oil and erosion affect our watersheds. Staff from Polk’s Nature Discovery Center will assist LE/AD with supervision and implementation of this program. 


For their Field Studies visit, each group will take a pre and post test. Follow up will be provided with additional materials sent back to camp locations, and a poster competition will be an elective.

LE/AD would like to thank the Southwest Florida Water Management District for providing educational materials for children participating in this program.