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Bartow, Fla. (October 4, 2022) —Several Polk County Environmental Lands sites are open following Hurricane Ian. These sites include Crooked Lake Prairie, Crooked Lake Sandhill, Gator Creek Reserve, Hickory Lake Scrub, Lakeland Highlands Scrub, Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve and SUMICA. While these sites are open, visitors are advised to use caution and follow the posted trail closures. Sections of trails may be under water and portions of trails may be closed, due to excessive downed trees and debris. 

The primary reason environmental lands were acquired was to protect the water, wildlife and wilderness of Polk County. People often visit environmental lands to see nature and enjoy the outdoors. These lands provide many benefits to the community including flood protection. Following Hurricane Ian, these sites are doing what they were naturally designed to do – provide flood protection by holding a large amount of water on the landscape.

Some preserves will remain closed as they store flood waters and help to prevent additional damage to private property and critical assets in the watershed. We apologize for any inconvenience these closures may have.

Staff and volunteers will start work to clear trails once the water recedes. The following sites will remain closed until further notice: Circle B Bar Reserve, Marshall Hampton Reserve, North Walk-in-Water Creek and Peace River Hammock.

For a location map and additional information on Polk County Environmental Land sites, check the county’s website at www.polknature.com.

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