City of Winter Haven staff and contractors recently eliminated the last untreated stormwater drainage ditch in the City of Winter Haven. Photo provided by the City of Winter Haven

Public Works Director M.J. Carnevale recently credited his staff for eliminating the last untreated stormwater drainage ditch in the city of Winter Haven.

“The last large untreated storm water outfall into the Chain of Lakes is now offline,” Carnevale said.

The drainage ditch had brought untreated stormwater from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard directly into Lake Conine – the most impaired of the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes.

Staff and contractors used piping to redirect the stormwater into the nearly complete Lake Conine Nature Park just off Lucerne Park Road.

Once complete, the Lake Conine Nature Park will be the largest of the four nature parks in the city at around 400 acres on the south shore.

For the past year, staff and contractors have been removing vegetation on the south shoreline and building berms, and replanting vegetation suitable for a nature park. Soon, stormwater will flow through the park before reaching the Chain of Lakes.

Stormwater should start flowing through the park soon. The city is partnering with the Polk County Board of County Commissioners to build some recreational facilities. City staff applied for state grants for such facilities, but those grant applications were not approved in the current state budget.

Many years ago, city leaders and engineers were primarily concerned with summer flooding and their objectives were to build drainage ditches and canals that lead to the Gulf of Mexico via the Peace River.

Carnevale said there will be multiple city workshops to get resident input on what kinds of recreational components are wanted in the park.

In addition to eliminating drainage ditches and building nature parks, city staff are helping to improve water quality in the Chain of Lakes in other ways.

The city currently has over 60 rain gardens and exfiltration systems around the urban core which provide treatment to Lakes Elbert, Howard, Martha, Maude, May, Otis, Roy and Silver.

Street sweeping is widely perceived as a litter control practice for aesthetic cleanliness, but it is also a pivotal non-structural best practice for stormwater management. Last year, the city contracted out street sweeping. City Manager Mike Herr recommended ending that contract, saying staff could do the job better. The city now owns a new street sweeper.

City planners have also been working with innovative developers to build green buildings.

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