The Natural Resources Division is responsible for ensuring the City of Winter Haven's natural resources are maintained and kept clean and healthy. As a City with 50 lakes bordering within its limits, it is key that we protect water resources, including water quality and quantity for our lakes and natural resources today and for the future.
Staff are constantly working to balance the requirements of state and federal regulations with the needs and desires of our community. This is achieved through a broad range of projects and initiatives. To support this invaluable work the division is guided by sound scientific data which helps to drive the decision-making process for projects that will provide the most impact.
- Can I use herbicide/clear vegetation from my lakeshore?
In general, you can clear 50 ft or 50% (whichever is smaller) of shoreline to open water areas without obtaining a permit. In addition, if you live on a private lake less than 160 acres, no permit is needed. For areas larger than that, you can obtain a permit from FWC (Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) which allows for herbicide application done by a certified individual on lakeshores and in the water. There are some specific circumstances, such as conservation easements, where this rule may not apply. Always exercise moderation in clearing lakeshores as lakeshore vegetation plays a large role in lake ecosystem stability. For any specific questions please reach out to us at 863-291-5881
- Can I create a sandy “beach” on my lakeshore?
FDEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) has found that fabricating sandy beaches on lakeshores which are naturally vegetated in Florida causes adverse effects on lake health, such as increased pollutant run-off causing algal blooms and adverse effects on lake inhabitants (fish, shellfish, etc). A dredge and fill permit from DEP is needed to create a sandy lakeshore, as well an ERP (Environmental Resource Permit) from the local Water Management District (SWFWMD).
- Where can I get plants for my lakeshore?
There are several nurseries in Central Florida that provide plants for lakeshores for wholesale. Some may require special arrangements for selling to residential customers. PlantAnt is a good resource for looking up local nurseries. Alternatively, the local UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Office is a very valuable resource for helping residents restore or promote Florida-friendly landscapes. In addition, the Natural Resources Division has a pilot Floating Treatment Wetland project from which aquatic plants are harvested and given away to residents periodically. Learn more about the program here, or call us at 863-291-5881 to be added to the mailing list when plants are available.
- Are there alligators in my lake or pond? Are they dangerous?
Any body of water, including smaller areas such as retention ponds, is a potential habitat for alligators. Like most wildlife, alligators have a natural fear of humans and are not a cause for concern. However, there are rare, exceptional circumstances where an alligator can become dangerous. If an alligator has been fed by humans or feels threatened then they can be aggressive. Alligators hunt during the hours of dusk and dawn so do not let dogs out on lakeshore property during these times. The mating season ranges from April to September in Florida, and it is best to be cautious of heavily secluded wetland areas, where they may place nests. If you observe an alligator exhibiting aggressive behavior or approaching humans, call the FWC Nuisance Gator Line at 866-392-4286. On City property, call the Natural Resources Division at 863-291-5881
- What should I do if I see injured/deceased wildlife?
If an injured animal is seen within City limits, please call us at 863-291-5881 and we will determine the best course of action. View a list of wildlife refuges that operate in the area (PDF). If a deceased animal is found on your property or a public space call the Solid Waste Division to coordinate appropriate pickup.
- Do I need a license to fish in our lakes?
A license is needed to take fish from the lakes, regardless of intent to harvest or release their catch, unless the person meets the exemptions listed. Learn more about permits managed by FWC.
- Active military personnel stationed in Florida
- Age 65+
- Disabled veterans
- If using a "cane-pole" in the county of your residence
- Residents who are permanently and totally disabled
- Under the age of 16
- What is Florida-Friendly Landscaping?
Florida-Friendly landscaping is a term that encompasses using plants and landscaping techniques that both conserve water usage as well as reduce the impact of residential and urban landscapes on the local environment. For information on Florida-Friendly gardening reach out to either the Natural Resources Office, the local UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Office, or the Water Conservationist with the Utilities Department.
Dustin EverittNatural Resources ManagerPhone: 863-291-5646
Devon MooreSenior Environmental ScientistPhone: 863-291-5881 Ext. 4504
Mary ThornhillNatural Resources SpecialistPhone: 863-291-5881 Ext. 5402
Savannah WinstanleyEcosystem & Asset AnalystPhone: 863-298-7507
Olivia HusikEnvironmental Scientist IPhone: 863-330-4946