ECWCD and Partners Issue Warnings to Stay Off Property
By East County Water Control District
East County Water Control District Manager David Lindsay today said the water control district, in cooperation with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and several property owners are going to get tough and stop trespassing, dumping, and partying on its lands and the lots of others that are unimproved in Lehigh Acres
Lindsay said the district commissioners, he and others have been discussing what to do about these serious problems over the last few months. The district has got to stop trespassing, littering and property destruction,” he said.
“And while these areas are environmentally sensitive and crucial to our water management system, a special effort will be aimed at the district-owned Halfway Pond (Mirror Lakes) and the privately owned Savanna Lakes area, which together form an area that is roughly bounded by Milwaukee Boulevard on the north, SR82 on the south, Homestead Road on the east and Grant Boulevard on the west. This has become a popular destination, known as the “82 Mudhole,” among ATV and muddling clubs.
Lindsay said the illegal use of these lands is destroying the environmental aspects and devastating ECWCD owned lands.
Some of the land in the area is owned by developers and those plots are being completely destroyed through the illegal use of ATVs and Jeeps and other vehicles, too, he said. The dumping of almost any item one can imagine and weekend partying that has gone on in this isolated area of Lehigh Acres has got to stop, Lindsay said.
According to a statement put out by the ECWCD, Florida Statute 298.66 provides for the prosecution of individuals causing damage to infrastructure while Florida Statute 375.314 provides for penalties and prosecution for the destruction of natural resources.
“And that is what is happening. Our properties that we maintain are being destroyed. Young people with ATVs, jeeps and monster-wheeled trucks are and have been using our lands for a period of time and they are destroying what is there. In addition, people are dumping tires, all types of debris, appliances and more. We have cleaned out tons of trash that people are taking out there and it’s got to stop,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said signs have been put up; cameras have been hidden in trees to find out the identities of the people who are destroying the lands. He said the violators are tearing down the signs, destroying the cameras and leaving the lands in a deplorable manner. He said ATVs are destroying the natural landscape and now as the rainy season is approaching, the area will turn to mud and big wheeled trucks use the area play to play mud games, commonly called “muddling.”
He said the trespassing, littering and property destruction, mainly those which are environmentally sensitive land crucial to local water management systems is a real problem and now is the time to bring law enforcement in and others to stop the illegal activities.
“The Sheriff’s Office has told me that deputies will be monitoring the area at different times and often. Weekends seem to be the favorite time for these illegal activities. We find beer bottles and all types of debris left from the people who are tearing up our land,” he said.
While the concentration now is being focused at the area described, the East County Water Control District, is also planning more enforcement on people who are found trespassing on all district lands. That means the illegal use of recreational vehicles like ATVs and sports utility vehicles that are being illegally used on canal right-of-ways and other lands throughout Lehigh Acres.
Lindsay said developers who own lands adjacent to ECWCD parcels which are also being destroyed, have agreed to pay for expensive metal barbed wire fencing and official signs posted along Milwaukee Blvd. The employees at the water control district are putting up the fence and the posted signs to warn people to stay off the lands or face heavy penalties.
The fencing is not cheap. The developers are providing fencing and signs for 1.25 miles along Milwaukee Blvd.
He said the water control district will soon start digging a deep draining ditch with a high berm on the south side of the property to prevent access by people who have no right to be there, “unauthorized individuals,” as the way Lindsay put it.
“You would be surprised about how much junk and litter our agency has picked up in that area. Over the last year, ECWCD, the Sheriff’s Office, Lehigh Acres Community Initiative, developers and community volunteers have hosted clean-up efforts in the Halfway Pond (Mirror Lakes) area removing some 30,000 pounds of trash, garbage, including tires, sofas and appliances.
Lindsay noted that the district must take strong enforcement actions to reduce the negative environmental impacts for the good of the community and the integrity of its water system, and ultimately for the taxpayers.