Check here for communications from our Board and members, including meeting Agendas, Minutes, and memorandums to FOLA members and community leaders. 

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  • January 05, 2015 11:54 PM | FOLA Webmaster
    To: All Interested Persons
    From: Friends of Lake Apopka
    Re: Coalition for Lake Apopka Ecotourism

    Since there has been considerable confusion and some misconceptions about the Lake Apopka planning process, I present a brief history of the project. It is my hope we will not have to spend much time discussing goals, objectives, vision statements, etc. if we agree on those already discussed. I hope we can quickly agree on such things as the structure of the group, operation of the group, even the name of the group. I present the recommendations of FOLA for points of discussion.
    Jim Thomas

    Since the initial discussions focused on the restoration of Lake Apopka, interest has continued to rise regarding how the lake and shorelines will be treated. While the lake is not restored, it has shown steady improvement and now is the time to increase interest in the process and begin plans to insure economic as well as ecologic restoration.

    Friends of Lake Apopka incorporated in 1991 and began the important process of educating the public about problems and potential projects and received a great deal of interest from the State legislature as well as numerous environmental organizations, local governments, and research groups. The group funded a planning firm to study ideas for a Planning Initiative which was published by Canin Associates in February 2000. A second project followed which published the Lake Apopka Basin Master Plan in January 2002. Both plans presented many basic ideas about our planning efforts and are available on the FOLA website ( Perhaps we can start our efforts by reviewing these.

    The need for planning was further emphasized at the Lake County Summit on Regional Issues which was held on February 8, 2013 where a number of presentations were provided from various State and Local governments and non-profits on the issues facing Lake Apopka. Following this meeting, Lake County asked Orange County to join them in an effort to prepare a detailed master plan for the Lake Apopka basin.

    The City of Apopka funded a planning study for a portion of the Lake Apopka North Shore focusing on about 1,000 acres, forming a steering committee mad holding 2 public meetings to obtain input.

    Orange County held a meeting on July 22, 2014 to continue the formation of a committee that could focus on all assets offered by development of the Lake Apopka Basin. The group developed the following goal for the Ecotourism Plan : “Establish the Lake Apopka Region as a Premier Ecotourism Mecca” with the following objectives:
    • Attracting tourists to visit the area by providing public access points, ensuring that user groups respect the restoration plan and to provide educational tourism opportunities, both environmental and historic. All activities or initiatives taken to achieve the goals should have a positive impact on the region and improve the environmental quality of the lake.
    • A vision statement was adopted from one that was taken from the City of Apopka Lake Apopka North Shore Ecotourism Plan:
    • A world class ecotourism destination which balances economic development with the protection and restoration of Lake Apopka’s vast and unique environmental resources to create significant nature-based opportunities for both visitors and residents of Central Florida.

    FOLA Recommendations

    1. Name of the group "Coalition for Lake Apopka Ecotourism"
    2. Structure of the group:
    a) Form a full coalition that includes both counties, City of Apopka, Winter Garden, Ocoee, Oakland, Montverde, Mount Dora, Environmental groups (FOLA ,Audubon, others).
    b) Break up the group into committees, perhaps based on regions (Apopka area, Winter Garden-Oakland, Lake County, etc).
    c) Have alternate monthly meetings (Committees and full membership)
    d) Begin listing current existing assets for ecotourism development and proposed projects
    e) Have coalition hear presentations from committees, vote whether to approve. Have each member group present one or two delegates which will vote? (We have some opposition groups to the eco-plan. What happens if they oppose)?
    3. Presentation of our plans: when a project is approved, a group is selected to plan it and present it to the right agency, group, etc. then have the coalition politic for acceptance. Make this an on-going process, don’t wait to produce a list before we start working toward approval.
    4. Funding, as usual, will be our biggest problem. Presentation plans should include possible funding sources.
    5. Determine the best way to do things like branding our projects and day-to-day activities (record keeping, publicity, website, Facebook, etc.)
    6. Once we start listing possible projects, we need to schedule a thorough bus tour of the entire basin to help us decide the best locations, etc.
    7. Define the area covered by the coalition: suggest using the Drainage Basin delineation.
  • December 01, 2014 4:13 PM | FOLA Webmaster

    The St. Johns River Water Management District is seeking public input as part of its work to develop minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin (UORB) - including lakes Apopka, Beauclair, Dora, Eustis, Harris, Griffin, and Yale, in Lake, Marion and Orange counties.
    For more information or questions, and a link to an online survey, please contact Sonny Hall at or (386) 329-4368.

  • November 03, 2014 4:55 PM | FOLA Webmaster

    We are happy to announce the public workshops to be held in October 2014 in each of the water managment districts.  See below for a list of workshop dates and cities to find one near you.

    • Wednesday, October 8, 1 PM, Live Oak (SRWMD/DEP)
    • Thursday, November 13, 1 PM, Palatka (SJRWMD/DEP)
    • Monday, October 20, 1 PM, West Palm Beach (SFWMD/DEP)
    • Monday, October 27, 1 PM (CST)/2 PM (EST), Panama City (NWFWMD/DEP)
    • Wednesday, October 29, 10 AM, Brooksville (SWFWMD/DEP)

    Please visit our SB 536 Study web page at for more details, including workshop locations.  These workshop meetings are open to the public and were noticed in the August 25, 2014, Florida Administrative Register.

    Thank you,

    SB536 Study Team

  • October 20, 2014 5:57 PM | FOLA Webmaster

    Please make every effort to attend the meeting on November 6 at 5:30 PM. We have to make some serious decisions and I want everyone involved. I have to limit the meeting to 1-hour so please get there on time!

    We have reached a critical time in the history of FOLA involvement in the restoration of Lake Apopka. We organized in 1990, incorporated in 1991 and since that time we have been instrumental in moving the process along. We spent a lot of time with key legislators who eventually got the process started, appropriated money to buy the farms (more than 100 million dollars), got public involvement and spent many years advocating for a scientific approach to the process.

    We still have issues that could compromise the restoration: projects like the proposed airports that could scuttle the bird migration, attempts by other organizations and agencies to grow hydrilla for fish habitat, remove the dikes that would flood the marshes, new projects that will prevent restoration of parts of the basin (chemical treatment project in the only plot we could restore as a Wet Prairie ecosystem), proposals on the north shore that would be counter-productive in the nutrient removal process, competition for opening the floodgates to provide more water downstream, etc., etc., It has been a long, hard struggle but we have had help from many sources and relied a great deal on the SJRWMD staff who have done their best on this massive project, unprecedented in magnitude of pollution and size.

    We are now seeing some potential to boost the restoration process and even to start initiating projects that will provide eco-tourism that will expand as the restoration of the Apopka basin continues.

    Now, FOLA must make major decisions about our continued involvement. I have been asked to have us play a major role in this process. We cannot agree until we know we are able to step up to it. We have our next board meeting on Thursday, November 6 at 5:30 P.M. at the Oakland Nature Preserve where we will determine whether we will take on a major role. This is particularly important to me but I cannot commit until I have the consensus of the board. Please make every effort to be there to hear the details.

    A number of people who are “advisors” also receive these notices. I urge you to try to attend this board meeting to give us your input. This is a very important step which I hope we can do, but I am not willing to proceed until I know we can do it!

    Jim Thomas
    FOLA President 

  • October 06, 2014 5:14 PM | FOLA Webmaster

    Amendment 1 gives Florida voters a direct opportunity to keep drinking water clean, protect our rivers, lakes, and springs, restore natural treasures like the Everglades, and protect our beaches and shores.

    Amendment 1 is our best opportunity to address threats to our water quality and keep pollution out of our waters—without any increase in taxes.

    Floridians understand the value of clean and abundant water for people and wildlife, and they cherish the natural areas that make Florida special. That’s why Amendment 1 would ensure that these values have a place in our state’s constitution.

    To learn why FOLA believes you should care about this important choice, visit VoteYesOn1. FOLA's endorsement is in process.

  • September 08, 2014 5:15 PM | FOLA Webmaster

     Two parcels of land in the Northeast corner of the North Shore area that were not included in the original plan have recently been offered for sale by St Johns River Water management District. See offer...
    FOLA has told the SJRWMD that we are interested in whether these parcels can be included in our ecotourism planning.

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