A1 A1
Grab a sweater, bring in the pets and cover plants

SEBRING — We’ve all been hearing about the cold front headed our way, but how cold is it going to be? Let’s put it this way, you will want to wear socks with those sandals until the weekend.

According to Meteorologist Tony Hurt with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, tonight through Wednesday morning will see the coldest temperatures about 33-34 degrees.

“It will hover just over freezing in some spots and in a few spots, it will get below freezing,” he said.

Thursday will warm up to about 45-50 degrees, Friday will continue to increase at some where around 55 degrees and have a 20% chance of rain. Saturday continues the warming trend and will be around 70-72 degrees with very little chance of rain.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) urges all pet owners to bring their pets in out of the cold. They say if it is too cold for you, it’s too cold for your animal to be outside. They also say that motorists should bang on the hood of their cars or make some type of noise because animals like to hide inside of cars to keep warm such as in the wheel wells.

There is still time to save your garden from the bitter frost. David Austin is the resident horticulturist at the University of Florida Extension Office in Sebring. He recommends covering plants that are cold sensitive with some type of cloth. Frost cloth is available at the extension office at 4509 George Blvd. He said it is not necessary to purchase anything and old sheets or blankets are acceptable.

Austin said that a gardener should cover the plant to the ground where it should be secured.

“It’s not the cover that is creating heat, it’s the ground that is,” he said. “So the cover is keeping the heat from the ground trapped inside.”

Keeping plants covered is the main thing. Austin said you can use different material including a cardboard box or an overturned garbage can.

“Anything is better than nothing,” he said.

Austin wasn’t too worried about this cold snap as he thinks it is supposed to be fairly windy, which keeps the frost away. He also said that on a cool and still night, freeze can occur at the comparably balmy 37 degrees.

Austin advised watering before 10 a.m. this morning. The water evaporating during the day will heat the earth and provide some heat during the nippy night. Old-fashioned Christmas lights woven in the plants will help to produce heat too.

Passing along 'The Dream' to the next generation

SEBRING — “If you are over 18, and have an ID, get over to Ms. Penny Ogg and get registered to vote,” Ada McGowan told attendees at this year’s gathering after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

If you don’t register to vote, she added, in a note of caution and scolding, don’t complain about what happens in this year’s election.

It was a reminder brought forth through a downtown parade with singing and recordings of King’s speeches, followed by a community festival across from Bountiful Blessings Church of God on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the Washington Heights neighborhood.

McGowan honored many donors to the parade and festival at the event, and gave the microphone to Mayor John Shoop, 15-year-old Josh Miller of Port St. Lucie and local poet Haywood Sanders.

Shoop noted the day was a “remembrance of a man that wanted to unite the nation, not just a few people.”

Miller, through an essay on King, recalled the highlights of the civil rights leader’s journey, right up to his assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, while there to support a garbage workers’ strike for better work conditions.

King’s final speech was one of those replayed via mobile loudspeaker as the head of the parade neared the park in Lincoln Heights. In it, King said, “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” a reference to Moses who led the people of Israel out of Egypt, but would not get to see the promised land.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will,” King spoke. “And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

Honoring King, Sanders’ recited his poem, saying, “He said, ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop. I have a dream that someday, one day will come true, but we must stand strong, in order to get through.’ He said, ‘We can’t stop. Don’t stop. We have a ways to go.” He said, ‘We’ve got to keep moving, to let the people know.’”

Sanders’ poem spoke of King and other civil rights leaders taking physical and legal blows, being beaten and jailed for asserting their rights.

“I didn’t understand it, because I was just a kid. But now that I’m a man, I thank God that they did,” Sanders said. “I thank God for all the people that took the stand for freedom, especially Dr. King, the one God chose to lead ‘em.”

Sanders then spoke of those who died for the cause, and in closing said, “So let’s not forget Dr. Martin Luther King. Let us not forget he was a man with a dream.”

The community event included bounce houses for young children, horse rides via Dexter and Janice Massaline Horses for older children and free barbecue chicken or hot dog meals.

In addition to opportunities to register to vote, the event also let people meet and greet with Sebring firefighters, sign up for the Arc of the United States MLK Serves grant program to help food-insecure families and learn more about the upcoming Juneteenth celebration this summer to honor emancipation from slavery in 1865.

Istokpoga Aquatic Habitat Management Plan in final stages

SEBRING — Staff from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, recently unveiled a draft Aquatic Habitat Management Plan for Lake Istokpoga.

Istokpoga is Florida’s fifth largest lake at 28,000 acres. It is located five miles northeast of Lake Placid and is noted for bass fishing. The plan calls for FWC to manage aquatic plants in a more balanced and transparent way than it has in the past.

FWC is responsible for all aquatic plant management, including invasive plant management, on Florida’s lakes. In the past several years, the agency was criticized very publicly and vociferously for allegedly applying herbicides too liberally on both invasive plants and collaterally on native plants. Fishermen and others posited over-spraying as the main reason for the decline in valuable habitat for fish, wildlife and marsh animals on the lake.

At the time, FWC was not in a position to respond to these criticisms. The agency was not monitoring the results of its herbicide treatments nor was it conducting studies to analyze the reasons for the elimination of hydrilla and submerged aquatic vegetation and for the decline in emergent plants on the lake. By early 2018, the outcries to stop spraying were loud enough that FWC could not ignore them.

Responding to the criticism and recognizing that a new approach was essential, FWC commissioned the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to prepare a stakeholder-driven (as opposed to a management-driven) Aquatic Habitat Management Plan for the lake over the next two years.

This is the second stakeholder-driven plan (Orange Lake being the first) that FWC has sponsored and the first one in which it has partnered with UF, which has developed such plans in the past.

Primary input was provided by the Lake Istokpoga Habitat Advisory Committee. LIHAC members included Dr. Paul Gray, science coordinator, Everglades Restoration Program, Audubon Florida; Dr. John Carson, seasonal resident and retired organic chemist; Cole Harty, FWC fisheries biologist; Jim Reed, Istokpoga homeowner, Friends of Istokpoga Board member, and former lake manager; Dave Sharp, duck hunter; Don Hatcher, Istokpoga bass fishing guide for more than 35 years; Nolan Rayburn, duck hunter and local agriculturalist; Sue Clark, local real estate agent; Dave Bouse, crappie fishing guide, and Dawn Ritter, county Natural Resources director.

The LIHAC met 16 times between June 2018 and December 2019 with UF facilitator Joy Hazell and UF Research Scientist and Project Manager Dr. Chelsey Crandall to discuss goals, objectives, and actions to be included in the plan. Dr. Kai Lorenzen, UF professor and project leader, and Mark Hoyer, UF limnologist and Florida Lakewatch director, also were part of the team.

The University of Florida also held four public meetings and received returns on a survey from more than 600 individuals with a vested interest in the lake.

LIHAC recommendations were periodically reviewed by the Lake Istokpoga Working Group comprised of FWC scientists and Highlands County Natural Resources staff. When there were differences of opinion, LIHAC and LIWG worked to resolve them.

Findings and recommendations that are in the draft plan are lengthy and will be published in a separate article this week.

Meanwhile, readers can find the draft plan as well as a summary of the draft plan on the website lakeistokpoga.wordpress.com. Then click on Habitat Management Plan. The public is encouraged to review the plan and submit questions and comments to Crandall at kicksea@ufl.edu by Feb. 3.

On Feb. 22, the University of Florida will present the final version of the Habitat Management Plan to FWC. The LIHAC will cease to exist. However, it has recommended incorporation into the Lake Istokpoga Management Committee, the stakeholder advisory group to the Highlands County Board of County Commission for the lake. The LIMC will continue in its current role of advising the county and FWC on management issues associated with the lake and its watershed. The LIMC was established in 1997.

MLK Prayer Breakfast celebrates civil rights leader's legacy

AVON PARK — The power of one to make a difference and the importance of advancing with the right educational coursework were among the themes of the speakers at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Prayer Breakfast.

The prayer breakfast, presented by the Highlands County NAACP, was held Monday in the Grogan Center at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Avon Park.

Master of Ceremonies Rev. Derrien A. Bonney asked those gathered what if Martin Luther King Jr. said, when the cause was presented, “no, I am too busy,” or didn’t stand up when he did. “Would we be here in this fashion today?

“All it takes is one person standing up for what is right and doing it in the right way and it can make a difference. So I am going to charge everyone in the room — make sure you understand the power of ‘one’ as we make Martin’s dream a reality.”

Bonney said, “In our society, in our nation, in our state, in our communities, we need to come together and become as one. Everybody brings something different to the table. Everybody has different skills and abilities that can make us better.

“We thank God that the vision of the NAACP is still resonating right here in Highlands County. Throughout history the NAACP has stood for social justice causes that now we realize are not limited to one particular race, creed or color that all of us can have a better life because of the positive strides that we make when we work together

“Together we can get more accomplished than we can on an individual basis. Around the room today, we have community leaders, we have civic leaders, we have political leaders and we also have folks with a common touch and we have gathered together during this prayer breakfast to say thank you to one another as we strive to build and strengthen our community.”

The Pathfinders (youth choir) of the Ridge Area Seventh-Day Adventist Church performed excellent renditions of “It’s Going to Rain” and “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Keynote speaker Ridge Area Seventh-Day Adventist Church Pastor Norman G. Knight stressed the importance of a good education.

“In the United States today, no student should go without the higher education of their choice because they lack the funds,” he said.

He provided a handout that went to each table with the coursework that students should take if they wanted to go to college.

Algebra is a gateway course to college, which they should take in eighth or ninth grade, Knight said. By taking general math, a student is eliminating themselves from other courses that they could take.

“It is not a guessing game,” he said. “If you take these courses, do well in these courses, a student will be prepared to enter the college or university of their choice.”

Knight noted that after high school he didn’t go to college, but went to work. After three years, he decided to go to college.

“Because I took these courses, because I had a B average, I was able to go to college with a scholarship to go,” he said. “That is the position we want our young people in.

“Let us not deny our children an education, but encourage them every step of the way.”