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Community Mobilization:

People in Immokalee have come together with a common goal: Save Lake Trafford. Lake Trafford is the only natural lake on the western side of the state and it is considered by many community members to be the heart of Immokalee. After the massive fish kill in 1996, it was obvious that something was very wrong with the lake and needed to be corrected. The lake is an important commodity to Immokalee because it attracts a wide range of tourists and sportsman. The threat of losing the lake has spurred the necessity for the community together to work toward saving the lake. Restoring the lake seemed to be the only possible solution.

Realizing the need for restoration was the easy part, finding the funds to back the project was a bit harder. The efforts have been called grass root because they consist of community mobilization and action. The algae bloom that led to the massive fish kill of 1996 affected much of the community. Within three months over one million fish died (Cade 4/18/96). People who used the lake for fishing, recreation, and business could not use the lake for six months after the fish kill. Annie and Ski Olesky, owners of the Lake Trafford Marina initiated a mobilization effort among the community to raise funds.

The Oleskyís worked with Frank Morello and community members in starting a task force, which has organized several fundraising events. The Lake Trafford Restoration Feasibility Task Force, with help from Collier County, the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida DEP, and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission have worked together to develop this plan to restore Lake Trafford. Support for this project extends to the local community, which has been actively involved in the development of the Lake Trafford restoration plan and has also arranged for various fundraising. The task force would have been less effective without the help of community members. Community members have participated in events, purchased goods and spent time in cleaning up the area surrounding the lake. Immokalee is a very small community and its members have developed a strong bond with each other and the lake by sharing a common goal.

The Survey:

A sample of 40 people was surveyed. Almost half of the surveys were done in Immokalee, at the Lake Trafford marina. Twenty were given to hispanics near the farmworker village and a handful were given over the phone.

The government has agreed to pay one half of the projected costs, while the other half had to be raised through grassroots efforts. The efforts have been called grass root because they consist of community mobilization and action. The algae bloom that led to the massive fish kill of 1996 affected much of the community. Within three months over one million fish died (Cade 4/18/96). People who used the lake for fishing, recreation, and business could not use it for six months after the fish kill. Something needed to be done to help bring business and visitors back to Immokalee that would be supported by community members.

Ann and Ski Olesky have direct access to the lake and itís visitors because their marina is located in front of the lakeís only public entrance. This may have helped them reach people, get the task force started and the grassroots efforts mobilized. They were the first to see the fish kill, the thousands of dead fish surrounding the lake horrified Annie and Ski. Annie said that seeing all of those fish dying was a sign that something needed to be done. She needed to "speak for those who had no voices, the animals"(Olesky 4/2/00). Annie called everyone in her Rolodex to rally support. She called on friends, land owners, business acquaintances and even past visitors of the lake. A task force was developed and sanctioned by collier county. It consisted of Fred Thomas, Frank Morello, Gene Hearn, Annie, and Ski Olesky. Together they began educating the community and wrote letters to politicians. According to the survey sample, asurprising majority of 29% were not involved in fundraising. 10% of those surveyed were on the task force. 24% answered that they had helped with fundraising, while many 55% (5% per response) gave specific examples of how they help with the restoration. A total of $35,000.oo was raised by the use of grassroots efforts. Some advocated for the cause. Others participated in cracker cookouts, which feature music, a wild hog barbecue, gator tail, swamp cabbage and many other local dishes. The Elementary school children got involved as well. They sold cookbooks and a portion of the money went toward the restoration. Another fund-raiser was called a tomato program and raised money through the sale of tomato packages. Some educated community members and participated in lake cleanups. Others helped in fundraising by participating in the events. All of these examples fit into the fundraising category, which would actually raise the amount of participation. The more people involved in fundraising, the higher the participation rate. It is important to include individualized responses because it gives an idea of the variety of fund-raisers and who was involved.

Why involved?

Most of the people surveyed had heard about the restoration from the people at the marina. 35% of the people surveyed said that they heard about restoration from Annie. Others said that they heard it from the people at the marina, which is essentially the same thing. Those who know about the restoration were more likely to be involved in the restoration project. People who did not live in the Immokalee were less likely to be involved with fundraising efforts then those surveyed who lived in Immokalee. **There were only a few tabulations for this on my print out. All in all the communityís participation is the most fascinating part of the restoration project. Those involved saw a need and took action. The reasoning behind an individualís action varied from person to person, but they each wanted a clean lake.

 

Annie and Ski Olesky, Owners of the Lake Trafford Marina initiated a mobilization effort. They collaborated with Frank Morello and community members in starting a task force, which has done several fundraising events. The task force would not have been nearly as effective without the help of community members. The community members have participated in events, purchased goods and spent time in cleaning up the area surrounding the lake. Immokalee is a very small community and the survey revealed that the sample group members have developed a strong bond with each other.

The First Question:

Were You Actively Involved in the Restoration Project?

There were many people active in raising funds for the restoration project. They consist of friends, community members, families, and children. People were more likely to be actively involved in the restoration if they know about the project. Annie and Ski have influenced much of the community support possibly because they live and work on the lake; it is their livelihood. Those who frequent the lake knew more about the project, then those who didnít. Those who were native or long time residents had more concern for the lake then those who didnít. The majority of Hispanics were not actively involved, possibly because restoration and event information is not translated into Spanish or Haitian. Information needs to be translated into Spanish and Creole so that these people who use the lake for fishing and solace may show their appreciation by helping to keep the lake free of litter.

Why Were You Involved?

Everyone surveyed had similar reasons for helping with the restoration even though their responses varied slightly. For example, one person surveyed said that they got involved because they love the lake and another said that they didnít want to see the lake die. A property owner said that he was worried about the surrounding land and he wants to develop and educational Eco-tour programs and campsite of sorts on an already disturbed area of his land, while preserving the rest. This will benefit both the fishing on the lake and the income of Immokalee. As of now, no development is scheduled on the perimeter of the lake, possibly because the owners want to keep the lake and itís animals alive and well. There is only one public entrance on the lake and only one marina, which means that visitors are bound to learn about the restoration project by simply visiting the lake.

How Did You Get Involved?

The majority of those who were actively involved with the grassroots campaign, were either long time residents of the area, local business owners or natives. Most of the Caucasian people surveyed were actively involved. The majority of the Immokalee residents who responded to the survey were interested in the well being of the lake. 38% responded that the restoration would benefit fishing on the lake. All of the people surveyed at the marina had heard of the restoration project. Most had heard about it from Ski, Annie or other locals. The location of the boat ramp and itís proximity to the marina, puts visitors in direct contact with committed restoration advocates, like Annie or Ski.