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Parks and Natural Resources

Looking to watch nature in action, enjoy outdoor recreation, or want to learn about Polk’s rich history? Polk County’s Parks and Natural Resources diverse recreation facilities, natural resource management areas and enriching cultural amenities have you covered.

Environmental Lands Program

What began as a grassroots movement, now serves to preserve and protect more than a dozen of Polk’s endangered and environmentally sensitive lands, water resources and wildlife habitats. The program also provides a fascinating Discovery Center and nature-based recreation.

History Center

Showcasing, informing, and inspiring residents and visitors with Polk’s rich history is the mission here. The center provides interesting programming, genealogy exploration, opportunities to discover heritage trails and experience fun special events. History exhibits and artifacts tell fabulous stories about historical times that relate to the county.

Invasive Plants

In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, lake ecosystems are restored and preserved through the protection of native vegetation and elimination of exotic plants on 87 lakes and waterbodies in Polk County.

Mosquito Control

Public health is improved by treatment and reduction of mosquitoes and the dangerous viruses they carry and transmit to people and animals.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation meets recreation and quality of life needs of the county’s residents and visitors through the management of parks, sports fields, an ATV Park, campgrounds, resource centers and special programs.

Water Quality

To maintain and protect the county’s numerous wateresources, water quality sampling is conducted and analyzed in the division’s in-house laboratory. The data is reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and is available on the Polk Water Atlas.


The county’s Stormwater Management Program follows on the heels of water quality monitoring and includes surface water treatment projects, public outreach, pollution prevention measures, runoff control and illegal dumping prevention.

Land Acquisition Management

The purpose of the Environmental Lands Program is to acquire, preserve, protect, manage and restore environmental sensitive lands, water resources and important fish and wildlife habitat. Acquired properties may be used for passive outdoor recreational purposes provided that such uses will not disturb or degrade the environmental quality for which the site was acquired.

To assist with the implementation of the Environmental Lands program, the Board appointed an advisory board, the Conservation Land Acquisition Selection Advisory Committee (CLASAC). Membership consists of one County Commissioner, and representatives from the agricultural community, environmental groups, outdoor recreation groups, sportsman groups and professionals with water resource and land management/use experience. They are charged with aiding the county in the design and orderly implementation of the local land acquisition program in Polk County.

Once a site is acquired, interim management begins. This includes site security, debris removal, exotic species removal and temporary parking areas and walkways, if feasible, until a management plan is finalized. A natural resource inventory is conducted on the property and nature-based recreation opportunities are evaluated for compatibility within the site. A public meeting is held to explain the site's important natural resources, discuss nature-based recreation opportunities, and to receive comment from the public in order to develop the site’s management plan. The proposed management plan is also commented on by CLASAC. The Board reviews the management plan and with input a management plan is finalized. The management plan is reviewed periodically to accommodate changing conditions. The Polk County Environmental Lands Public Use Ordinance (Ordinance 08-003 as amended) provides the overall framework for acceptable behavior while visiting environmental lands.

Click here to download our Site Nomination Form

Gaye Sharpe

Phone: (863) 534-7377
Toll Free: (800) 780-5346

Street Address:
4177 Ben Durrance Road 
Bartow, FL 33830

Office Hours of Operation:
Monday through Friday
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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