AVON PARK — Pavement at South Country Club Drive and Hogan Lane smells like a catfish pond and slips under the feet. Water has cleared, but so have Crystal Lake residents.
“Jim (Fitzgerald) is leaving,” said Brad Reutz, pointing to the baby-blue home at the corner of the intersection, which he said is one of a dozen left uninhabitable by rising waters after Hurricane Irma.
Les Richardson, who lives on Flamingo Road in Crystal Lake, has water surrounding his home and driveway once again, thanks to this past weekend’s rains. After Irma, it came up inside his garage storage room.
“They finally got someone (hired) to drain the water,” Richardson said of park management. “There’s still a lot of standing water.”
He said most, but not all Crystal Lake residents have power restored. Many “snowbirds” have returned to find ponds where they once had yards or streets.
“They are just as devastated as we are,” Richardson said.
He and other members of the Crystal Lake Club Homeowners Association plan to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Crystal Lake Clubhouse on the shore of Lake Denton, to discuss the matter further and look for solutions.
Richardson said management will allow use of the clubhouse as long as residents take responsibility for health issues from mold in the building, and understand that the building lacks restrooms at the moment. Attempts to reach park management were unsuccessful, as the listed phone number is out of service and staff was not available at the clubhouse when visited by Highlands News-Sun.
While improvements are being done now on storm drains, Richardson said it should have been done years ago.
“It’s not a ‘flood,’” Richardson said. “It’s a lack of drainage.”
Joy Faulkner, a former HOA board member, said the current owners should have known about this drainage issue from the previous owners, given that it happened almost 20 years ago. In early 1998, an el Niño dropped a lot of rain on central Florida, and Crystal Lake had similar drainage problems.
Jerry Jones said the park still has a water problem and will have for a while, but some improvements have been made. Work crews are piping water from Country Club and Hogan to Fairway 7, where it will get pumped to other areas for drainage eventually to the retention pond on the east of the park.
“This is going to work,” Jones said of the pipe, though he couldn’t say if standing water would then seep into soil. “The ground is so saturated, it will sit on the spot.”
He praises the city of Avon Park with providing a pump three days after the storm, because it had one to lend. It would not have been possible for park management to secure a pump after the storm, he said: None were available.
The present drainage was set up in 2006, Jones said. When management saw recent photographs of fairways full of water, they said that is what the drainage is supposed to do. That’s true, Jones said. It’s all supposed to flow from fairway to fairway until it reaches the east pond.
However, Fairways 16 and 17 are not connected well to Fairways 14 and 15, he said. Between the two areas, on Trevino is a storm drain currently 6-8 inches under water and not draining, because the water levels on the fairways are pushing the water back, Jones said.
Meanwhile, Jones said, water management districts require each entity — especially mobile home parks — to come up with their own drainage plan, so long as the water district approves it.
“(Water management) says handle your own water issues,” Jones said. “You can’t just put it off on someone else.”
Meanwhile, Richardson took his wife to the doctor on Monday. He said it was to help deal with the stress this has caused.