Lake Wales Heritage, an Olmsted-focused conservancy in Lake Wales, Florida, is dedicated to educating its community members on the city’s important past.
In 1931, shortly after Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. completed his work on the adjacent Mountain Lake neighborhood and nearby Bok Tower Gardens, he was commissioned by Edward Bok to design the city’s streetscapes and later retained for a sum of $4,500 to create Lake Wales’ first zoning ordinances. Unfortunately, his plans were only partially realized due to the Great Depression.
As reported in a series of articles in the Lake Wales News, work is currently underway to revive the concept of “a city in a garden.” The current plan calls for the infusion of trees and other plants along two main streetscapes. The plan will positively impact both Lake Wales Park and Bok Tower Gardens.
Lake Wales Heritage’s education program— with the motto of “Raising the Stewards as We Raise the Trees”— has welcomed more than 50 middle school and high school students to participate in this revitalization effort. When on site, students are guided through the hands-on process of planting and maintaining the trees along these two thoroughfares. On April 8, the next phase of planting begins with 34 Magnolia Grandiflora trees at a cost of $11,400.
The conservancy is also providing students with the opportunity to participate in a summer educational program. The program will offer Saturday classroom experiences and field trips to those wishing to learn more about the Olmsted legacy and its impact on the community.
Additionally, student volunteers from Lake Wales High School will assist with the first ever Olmsted Day in the Park. Lake Wales Heritage is a proud Celebration Partner of the Olmsted 200 campaign, and in cooperation with the city, the conservancy is celebrating the milestone with a day of educational games, food, music, and family fun.
Much like the conservancy, city leaders are reminiscing about the past while looking to the future. Inspired by Lake Wales Heritage, the city has announced an $18 million effort to expand Olmsted’s vision throughout the city’s commercial heart. The award-winning design by Dover Kohl and Partners— called Lake Wales Connected— would create a web of parkways and trails that link together greenspaces and neighborhoods, requiring hundreds of new street trees. To learn more about this strategy, please visit the City of Lakes Wales’ website here and read about their newest grant from T-Mobile here.
This article first appeared in the April 1, 2022, issue of Field Notes by the National Association for Olmsted Parks