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Frequently Asked Questions

How can we get involved?

Volunteer with the Environmental Lands Program. We have a number of volunteer positions and we are always looking for new people to join our enthusiastic team of dedicated volunteers. Whether you are looking for indoor or outdoor ways to give back, we would love to have you. Please just fill out the volunteer application and drop it off at Polk's Nature Discovery Center, or mail it to the address at the top. We look forward to having you as a part of our team.

How should I prepare for my visit?

Our most popular tips are listed below. For more tips, visit our Prepare page.

  • Protect yourself from the Florida sun. Wear sunscreen and appropriate clothing. Long pants, a hat, sunglasses and closed-toe shoes are recommended.
  • Drinking water is not available in natural areas. Carry water with you.
  • Binoculars and telephoto lenses can provide close-up views of a variety of wildlife.
  • Mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks and chiggers are present in natural areas during the rainy summer season (usually June through September). Fire ants are also present throughout the year in higher and drier areas. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts or insect repellent to avoid being bitten.

When are Environmental Lands open?

Polk County Environmental Lands that currently provide public access are open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Standard Time and from 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Daylight Saving Time. Occasionally sites are closed due to certain management activities such as prescribed burning.

How are properties chosen for evaluation under this program?

Site nomination forms are received from property owners and other interested parties. Consent from the property owner is received prior to review of the sites by the Technical Assessment Group and the Conservation Land Acquisition Selection Advisory Committee. The Technical Assessment Group uses standard selection criteria and ranks each site that is reviewed according to these standard measures. The Board of County Commissioners considers the recommendations of staff, the Technical Assessment Group and the CLASAC Committee. The Board has final responsibility for the decision to pursue acquisition.

What kinds of nature based recreation opportunities are allowed on Environmental Lands?

The primary management goal of natural lands purchased through the Environmental Lands Program is to protect water, wildlife and wilderness resources. A management plan, which describes site-specific natural resources and potential compatible nature-based recreation, is developed for each property. Most sites that are open for public use provide opportunities for hiking, nature study and picnicking. Some sites may offer other opportunities, such as non-motorized bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding and primitive camping.