Lake Clarke Shores Town History

Profitable ventures always appealed to John Clarke.  As the son of Palm Beach pioneer Charles Clarke, he had the means to invest in them.

When the pineapple business looked promising throughout south Florida in the early 1900’s, Clarke bought five acres just south of the present Hillcrest Cemetery on Parker Avenue.  There he planted a grove and built a packing house to prepare the fruit for shipment to northern cities.

By 1909, business was thriving from Cape Canaveral to the Keys, but a blight destroyed most of the crops the following year.  Though the growers tried to recover, Henry Flagler’s railroad finally shut down the industry.  When the line extended to Key West in 1912, Cuban pineapples could be loaded and shipped to northern markets more economically.  By 1915, Clarke, like most others, had abandoned his fields.

Growing pineapples was hardly Clarke’s main motive when he bought the property.  He and his brother had designed and were building the first shaft-driven car at their plant in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  Business never permitted John to spend an entire season with his family in Palm Beach.  When he was here, the land provided him a place to do what he loved best.  An avid fisherman, he could escape the pressures of business catching all the bass and bream he wanted in a lake on the western edge of his land.

With his wonderful sense of humor, Clarke jokingly named the lake after himself because there was no one around at the time that particularly cared what it was called, Lake Clarke simply became accepted.

In 1917, the boundaries of Lake Clarke were changed because of the efforts of Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward.  He honestly believed that the Everglades could be drained by cutting a few canals from Lake Okeechobee to the ocean.  Any land exposed due to drainage would become state property and could be sold to increase state revenue.  He convinced the legislature to pass a comprehensive drainage law. 

The West Palm Beach Canal opened as a result of Broward’s law.  For produce and sugar growers in the Glades, it did provide the only direct route between the coastal and western sections of Palm Beach County, but it also forever altered Lake Clarke.

When the locks were opened at the spillway between Lake Worth and West Palm Beach, water levels in the lake were lowered by approximately eight feet leaving only the deepest areas intact.  Most of what remained was only one to two feet deep, and within a few short years, weeds and rushes clogged most of that.

No longer the clear clean lake John Clarke had known, most of the area transformed into a marshy sanctuary for life attuned to that environment:  alligators, ducks, dove, quail, herons, owls, raccoons, frogs, snakes, and insects. It remained that way for almost thirty years.

Zeb Vance Hooker farmed in the Everglades until he joined the Army to serve in World War I.  Upon his return, he wanted to capitalize on the land boom which had been created by the additional drainage projects and assurances of flood control.  In 1921, he established Z. V. Hooker Company which specialized in Everglades land.

Unfortunately for Hooker and many others, the hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 devastated most of the Glades, ending the period of widespread land speculation.  As if to compound Mother Nature’s insults, the Great Depression began in 1929, thus finishing Hooker’s real estate career.

With his wife and three young sons, he moved east.  They became the first known residents of what would become Lake Clarke Shores.  Sometime in the early 1930’s, they squatted on government owned land near the southeast end of the lake.  Hooker raised a few chickens and goats and lived in a wooden shack until development began in the late 1940’s.

Those who knew Hooker remembered him as a friendly “Florida Cracker”.  A few of the Town’s earliest buyers were vaguely aware of him, but because they never knew him, they simply called him “The Hermit.”

In 1936, the Patrick family bought a large tract of land on which they planted mango groves and raised about 200 head of cattle until F.C. McKenzie and Roy Dilling bought most of their property.

McKenzie and Dilling subdivided the property into 2-1/2 acre plots which they hoped to sell to investors.  It seemed simple enough.  All they had to do was hire a manager to tend the groves, ship the fruit up north, and the investor would receive his proportional share of the profits.

The trees never bore enough fruit for a commercial venture ever to succeed, and due to inadequate shipping methods, most of it spoiled by the time it reached its destination.  Compounding their misfortune was apparently an employee who increased his own salary by embezzling funds.

Investors were not attracted to the obviously doomed venture.  By 1946, their only hope for financial salvation was to abandon the groves and sell off the land.

However, who would want to buy property so far from town?  Who could even find it?  It was a fine place to gig frogs or to hunt quail, ducks, and dove, but surely for little else.

For Patsy Renolds, it was perfect.  The land she found at the end of Antigua Road gave her all the privacy and space to do whatever she wanted.  What she wanted was to raise dogs and cats.

In 1946 she built her home which, according to records, is the oldest house which still stands.  However, by the time the Town developed around her, she had so many animals that the Health Department issued her several citations and she eventually moved.

For various reasons, a few other adventurous people bought from McKenzie and Dilling, but certainly with no immediate intentions of building homes.  In 1949, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Oen and two of their friends bought adjacent lots where they enjoyed many Sunday afternoons fishing and cooking out at the “lake place”.

Later that year, Mr. and Mrs. Langford bought property so they would have a place to have family picnics.  “You had to pick your days to get out here” explained Mrs. Langford, “because when it was wet, you got stuck in the mud and when it was dry you got stuck in the sand”.  It was so uninhabited and rustic that she recalled sighting peacocks in the woods.

In the late 1940’s, local attorney, Walter Travers, learned about Lake Clarke through Zeb Hooker.  He and his wife went out to take a look.  Mrs. Travers recalled first seeing “just a bunch of weeds.” 

The south shore of the “main lake” ended just below Gregory Road.  Unlike the lowlands surrounding most of the lake, a green pasture hugged its southern shore.  Travers even kept a few cattle in the pasture, but raising livestock was never his intention.  Instead, he envisioned a waterfront community.

Jim Carlton, who would later become the first Town Engineer, tried to discourage Travers.  Mrs. Carlton recalled that one of Jim’s favorite stories resulted from the day Travers took him to the top of the Southern Boulevard overpass.  As they looked south over the marshland, Carlton warned that the land was simply too low for development to be economically feasible.

Undaunted, Travers pursued the idea against Carlton’s better judgment.  He bought property from shoreline owners and then approached the state about procuring land which had been exposed during the drainage project some thirty years before.

At first he was told it was not for sale.  Apparently, there had been a similar situation in Broward County just prior to Travers’ request.  Without benefit of a public sale, the land there was sold to a friend of one of the Cabinet members and a great deal of embarrassing publicity resulted.

Travers persisted and traveled to Tallahassee to meet with the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund which holds title to state-owned lands.  When he asked what price would put the property on the market, he was finally told $300 per acre.

Travers offered $300 per acre but only for land which was four to five feet above the water.  He was willing to pay $200 per acre for the land at water level but only $100 for land underwater.  When the State advertised the sale, Travers was the only bidder.  With $10,000 he borrowed from a friend, he purchased his first 250 acres on the northwest side of the lake.

Part of Travers’ investment in his new development was the result of a strange accident.  He was walking on Datura Street in West Palm Beach one day when suddenly he heard a crash.  A window had broken on the thirteenth floor of the Harvey Building.  A piece of falling glass cut off part of his right ear.  He reacted as any good attorney would:  he sued, and promptly invested his $5,000 settlement into his development.

Once he had acquired the property, Travers hired Jim Carlton as the Engineer and Surveyor to lay out the land to get the maximum number of waterfront home sites.  His goal was to develop the most desirable place to live in the area.

By 1949, Travers brought in dredging equipment to transform the lowlands into a marketable commodity.  Around the rim of the lake, he set up a dragline which dug down, scooped up sand from the bottom, and piled it up to be used for fill.

Bill and Betty Diemer were among Travers’ first customers.  They learned about the lake from Mr. Diemer’s older brother who hunted there.  Out of curiosity, they decided to try to find it.

“After reaching several dead ends,” said Diemer, “we finally found our way in here”.  What they found was a small section of a shellrock road which would later become West Lake Drive.

That afternoon, they ran into Walter Travers.  He explained his plans for the area and they bought.  The trouble was that land had not been subdivided.  Like several others who bought before the land was surveyed, they wound up with a slightly different piece of property than what they thought they had bought, said Diemer,”it really didn’t make any difference”. 

The first few years were slow ones for the developer.  By the end of 1952, only three homes had been built.  Mr. and Mrs. Travers lived in the one on the north side of the boat ramp.  The other two stood immediately south of the ramp.

Access was still limited, though Selby Road had been extended in the early 1950’s from Congress Avenue to the Palm Beach Canal.  Travers knew that the only way to attract buyers would be to connect Selby Road with Forest Hill Boulevard.

County plans included a bridge across the canal but there was no particular need for one at the time.  Travers knew he could not wait so he decided to construct a one-lane wooden bridge.

Before he could do so, Lake Lytal, then a Palm Beach County Commissioner, wisely intervened.  Knowing that Travers was willing to contribute the $10.000 he had already allocated, Commissioner Lytal helped convince the County to proceed with its planned construction.  As a result, County taxpayers saved money, Travers got his bridge, and Selby Road became Forest Hill Boulevard.

After the bridge opened in 1953, development and building increased rapidly.  The Oens, the Langfords, the Lytals, and several others built in 1954.  By April 1956, there were 150 registered voters living in “Lake Clarke Isles”.

After the original development on the northwest side of the lake was complete, Travers turned his attention to the northeast side.  Mr. and Mrs. Herb Neiswander recalled walking on wooden planks over the canal at Pine Tree Lane so they could choose a lot on Venetian Way.  Of course, they could not build a home until Travers completed a bridge there.

As he realized profits on one section of land, Travers invested in another.  He continued his dredging operation and extended the “main lake” south to where it is today.  He dug canals and piled up the dirt to create buildable lots.  He built roads and bridges, and even a water company at the corner of Pine Tree Lane and Forest Hill Boulevard.  With the environmental regulations in existence today, such major alterations of wetlands would never be permitted. 

Travers’ interest in waterfront lots left “dry” parcels in the western section of Town to be developed later by several others, including L. Phillips Clarke, John Clarke’s nephew, who platted Clarke Road north of Gregory.  Travers was undoubtedly responsible for the majority of development.  Eventually he developed all the land north of Forest Hill Boulevard and on the east side of the lake.  On its west side, he developed most of the land along West Lake Drive.  By 1960, he sold his remaining lots to builders and left the area but not before realizing his dream of a waterfront community.

For years, there was talk that Walter Travers was instrumental in forming a Town because of the way he developed the property.  True, he ran into problems when he presented plans to the County for approval.  His bridges and roads were too narrow, there were no sidewalks, and his canals did not meet County specifications. 

Travers denied spearheading the movement for incorporation.  Clearly stating he was not in favor of it, he said, “From a developer’s standpoint, I would rather have dealt with the County which was all the way downtown than to have the homeowners looking over my shoulder!”.

Whatever Travers’ position, two things were certain.  It was rumored that West Palm Beach planned to annex the community into the city limits which would mean higher taxes.  Homeowners on the east side of the lake were disgruntled about the condition of their roads.  Venetian Way and Pine Tree Lane had been finished to the causeway, but Travers had not bothered to lay shellrock on them.  The area was so sandy that everyone called it the “sand pits”. 

About sixty people united to form the Lake Clarke Property Owners’ Association in the fall of 1955.  They first met at Mr. and Mrs. Neiswander’s home on Venetian Way.  Residents discussed their problems and appointed a ten man steering committee to suggest possible solutions.

Meetings continued regularly at the Meadow Park School.  Although some residents were unconcerned about the fate of the area, most felt that the only way to get things done, and in their own way, was to be self-governing. 

If a town was to be formed, residents had to vote on a name.  In a heated debate, owners of “dry” property opposed “Lake Clarke Isles” or “Lake Clarke Shores”.  Also, some feared that Lake Clarke would be confused with Lake Park.  Finally, a vote was taken, but there was not a majority.  In the second vote, the “Town of Lake Clarke Shores” was approved.

With the name settled, residents met at Meadow Park School on April 10, 1956, to decide if the community would be incorporated as a municipality.  Because the State Legislature did not meet in 1956, a town could be incorporated only under the General Laws of the State of Florida.  This simply meant that two-thirds of the 150 registered voters had to approve the measure by signing a petition, and could later apply for a State Charter when the Legislature met the following year. 

The following article appeared in the Palm Beach Post/Times on Sunday, April 15, 1956:

“Westward expansion isn’t just a blueprint for the future of West Palm Beach.  It’s something that had been quietly but steadily going on southwest of the city for some time.  Fine new homes, new stores, new service establishments spring up in the outlying areas as Palm Beach County’s population continues to grow.

Occasionally a group of these suburbanites band together to form a town on their own.  A group of 117 freeholders turned out at an election for that purpose last Tuesday.

Welcome to the family Town of Lake Clarke Shores!  Good neighbors are always welcome”. 

When the Homeowners’ Association became a Town, the real work began.  At first there was no election.  People simply volunteered to fill the necessary positions.  William H. McLaughlin became the Town’s first Mayor.  Horace J. Cunningham, William M. Diemer, Robert G. Hillbert, Charles G. Platt, and Frank M. Seay became the Town’s Aldermen.  Betty Diemer volunteered to be the Town Clerk; William H. Blythe held the job as Marshal; and John Farrell served as Town Attorney.

The first Council had the task of laying the foundation of the Town.  Ordinances had to be formulated, services had to be provided, building codes had to be established, and decisions had to be made regarding collecting funds to manage the Town.

Council passed the first ordinance on May 14, 1956.  For the safety of residents, it declared speed limits within the Town to be 25 mph.

Fred Hardekopf was appointed Chairman of the Finance Committee.  Though building permits and occupational licenses supported a portion of the Town’s financial needs, the Committee advised that assessments might become necessary to fund the balance.

Since it was illegal to assess for only a portion of a year, Council decided to request voluntary payments of $15 for each residence and $1 for each vacant lot.  By October, 80% of the residents had paid voluntarily and Mr. Hardekopf reported going door-to-door to collect the remaining 20%.  After talking with the townspeople, Hardekopf further informed the Council that the majority were clearly in favor of voluntary assessments instead of taxes.

Other financial needs were met through the extraordinary efforts of the citizens.  They organized a Canasta Club, a Pinochle Club, a Bridge Club, two Garden Clubs, and a Women’s Club.  When the Town had a need, members of the clubs held dinners, bazaars, plant sales, rummage sales, and Tupperware parties.  These contributions were a significant part of the Town revenue.

Everyone’s favorite fundraiser was the Town’s barbecues.  Most were held on a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Forest Hill and West Lake Drive.  They were so popular that a standing joke emerged:  the Town would disband as soon as an ordinance forbidding the barbecues was passed!

Between April 1956 and April 1957, the first Council passed seventeen ordinances.  They provided for public safety, defined building codes, and even established the Town as a bird sanctuary.

Among other things, they obtained permission to use Meadow Park School as a recreational area for the summer and hired Richard Melear as director to provide activities for the Town’s children.  They oversaw the collection of assessments for street paving and saw to it that street signs were erected.

During the first few years, according to Diemer, Councilmen were a “shirtsleeve group” who were able to conduct business on a handshake.  Town meetings were enjoyable affairs since most of the townspeople turned out.

Helping the Council were many volunteers who studied and advised on various issues.  There was a Finance Committee, Beautification Committee, and a Zoning Committee which had studied sites for a town hall. There was even a Hyacinth Committee which studied various means of controlling weeds in the lake.

Nor had other residents been idle.  In addition to the clubs, a welcoming committee was organized to greet new residents.  A blood bank was established, and the first Christmas Decorating Contest was a big success.

In October 1956, Mrs. T. G. Cronk began a monthly newspaper which continued until 1971.  Due to the dedication of the ladies who worked on the paper, most of the Town’s early years are chronicled.

Thanks to Bill and Betty Diemer, mail was delivered to street addresses rather than to rural delivery boxes by the summer of 1957.  With a map of the Town spread on their dining room table, they spent hours numbering the lots and houses on each street.

There was an unmistakable spirit of civic pride and responsibility present in the citizenry.  At one time or another, nearly everyone pitched in to do whatever needed to be done.  During the early years, Bill Diemer recalled, “There was at times a surplus of volunteers, and the Council had the regrettable task of choosing among them”.

With the granting of the State Charter on July 1, 1957, the Town’s authority was expanded to include a Municipal Judge.  Though the term Alderman was changed to Councilman, the spirit of the Town remained unaltered.  It was about to experience growth, and with that, came change.

With the opening of Forest Hill High School in 1958, growth exploded.  No longer did Mrs. Lake Lytal’s friends tease her about living in the “boondocks”.  On the contrary, the Town had become a prestigious place in which to live.

By 1960, the population stood at 1,297.  Growth was not without its problems.  Newcomers had their own ideas about how the Town should be run, and the budget was hard pressed to keep up with demands despite valiant efforts by the various clubs and organizations.

One of the earliest problems facing the Town was the issue of zoning.  Originally, the entire Town was zoned residential.  State Representative Ralph Blank was the first to oppose the zoning laws in 1956.  He thought that a gas station would be quite suitable on his property at the corner of Selby Road and Florida Mango.

There were bitter confrontations and the matter was finally put to the voters on April 12, 1961.  By a vote of 255 to 180, the ordinance to rezone part of Forest Hill Boulevard failed.  By March of 1963, the County announced plans to widen the road and residential zoning on a four-lane road seemed less and less prudent.

In addition, some owners along Forest Hill Boulevard were resisting the zoning laws by bringing lawsuits against the Town.  The study the problem, the Town hired Professor Ernest Brantly, Urban Planning Consultant, from the University of Florida.

His extensive research concludes with the suggestion that voluntary rezoning would put an end to the costly litigation.  Limited commercial zoning would provide the convenience of nearby goods and services to residents with the Town.

Finally, on April 13, 1964, an ordinance was passed which provided for limited commercial building and some multi-family units along Forest Hill Boulevard.  In June 1967, the first commercial establishment opened at the corner of Florida Mango and Forest Hill Boulevard.  After eleven years of protesting, Ralph Blank finally saw a gas station on his corner.

That ordinance stopped the lawsuits until 1973 when Howard Greenfield took the Town to court to rezone his forty acres on Florida Mango Road.  The court ruled in Greenfield’s favor, though he never developed the property.  Instead, in 1986, he sold it to Burg and DiVosta, a developer who built townhouses on the property.

Another mounting problem in the early 1960’s was the matter of financing.  By fiscal year 1959-1960, the budget of $25,951.28 had to be collected from building permits, occupational licenses, fines, and community fundraisers.

The enormous expenses incurred by defending zoning lawsuits pushed the Town into deficit spending by 1962.  By fiscal year 1962-63, $5,170 was needed to make up the shortage.  By fiscal year 1963-64, the figure had grown to $12,000.

By the end of 1963, it was apparent that the Town could no longer maintain the services to its 498 homes without additional sources of revenue.  By special referendum on October 3, 1964, voters supported the implementation of ad valorem taxes, which the Town has levied ever since.

For several years, all Town business was conducted from the Town Clerk’s home.  “Town Hall” was open whenever she was home.

The Tax Collector, the Building Inspector, and the Town Clerk stored records in their homes until traffic in and out, and lack of space, made it difficult to conduct business efficiently.  In June 1966, the Town rented half of the building owned by the Water Company on Pine Tree Lane.  Though the quarters were small, at least Town matters were finally consolidated and could be carried on during regular business hours.

The Town Council met at the Meadow Park School until moving to the Emmanuel Baptist Church in 1965.  Unfortunately, meetings sometimes conflicted with church activities.  Meetings subsequently moved back and forth between the church and the school. 

Since the Town’s inception, each Council had recognized the need for a Town Hall, and had discussed various sites and plans.  By the early 1970’s, the need could no longer be ignored.  A Town Hall was finally built on Barbados Road.  It opened in August 1974.

Recreational facilities for residents had long been proposed by several Councils.  With space available on the Town Hall property, two tennis courts and a basketball court were added in the spring of 1975.  The Town finally paved the boat ramp in 1978.

Also in 1978, the Town purchased the old Town Hall/Water Company site on Pine Tree Lane.  The building there was razed despite requests by both Garden Clubs to use it as their headquarters.  Today, the Town has developed the area as Pine Tree Park and built a heart trail.

Other public land lies at the head of the lake, which Walter Travers deeded to the Town in exchange for issuing a permit for his water company.  For years it remained an unnamed area though “Travers Park” was suggested.

Tragedy finally brought a name for the land.  Paul H. Cline became the Town’s first casualty in Vietnam on February 6, 1968.  Council considered naming the area in his honor, but settled on “Memorial Park” in case other residents from Town were to suffer the same fate.

Sadly, another young man is honored there.  Scott Alan Powell was only thirteen when he was struck and killed by a car as he bicycled along Pine Tree Lane while delivering newspapers.  Donations from residents provided a plaque in Memorial Park for Scott.

William Blythe, jeweler, volunteered to be the Town’s first Marshal.  The following year, Everett Hatfield took over and remained a vital part of the force until 1964.

It was the Marshal’s responsibility to persuade some of the men in Town to help out.  All the men held other jobs so police duties were performed as time permitted.  The volunteers were sworn in as officers of the law by the Sheriff’s Department so that they could legally make arrests.

The Marshal saw to it that street signs and stop signs were erected as necessary, and advised Council on ways to improve safety of the Town.  Hatfield was also the driving force behind establishing voluntary crossing guards on Forest Hill Boulevard so that children could safely walk to school.

The Marshal’s Department was in charge of handling violations of city ordinances, and the main violation was speeding.  It was the Marshal who trained his men to perform their duties.

Deputy John Riggs recalled that his training consisted of spending a couple of evenings with Hatfield catching speeders on Forest Hill Boulevard and then he was on his own.  Riggs said of Hatfield, “Without a doubt, he had a natural ability to hold a smile even while giving the crankiest person a ticket.  I never saw Hatfield get upset or frown about anything.”

Bill Diemer, however, remembered one incident in which Hatfield later told him he had never been so scared in all his life.  One evening there was a shooting on Venetian Way.  In a domestic dispute, a man shot and killed his brother-in-law.  As a volunteer, Hatfield was the first to admit he knew nothing about real police work, so his first reaction was to call the Sheriff’s Department for assistance.  By the time they arrived, Hatfield had made the arrest and the suspect was sitting in the car.

As first, the Marshal and his deputies carried their own weapons and wore second hand uniforms donated by the West Palm Beach Police Department.  They didn’t mind driving their own cars and paying for their own gas.  When insurance companies refused to cover their cars while on duty for the Town, Hatfield finally convinced the Council to carry insurance for them.

There was enough police activity by 1960 to warrant the purchase of radio equipment.  In 1962, the Town bought its first police car.  Both items were made possible through the hard work and generosity of the townspeople.  The ladies in the clubs raised all the money for the radio and donated handsomely toward the car.  A special barbecue was held to  make up the difference and the deputies went door to door for contributions. 

With 498 homes to protect by the end of 1963, the volunteers had their hands full.  John Alge, a 28 year veteran of the West Palm Beach Police Department was hired not only as the Town’s first paid officer, but also as its first officer with any training in real police work.

At the June 8,1964 Town Council meeting, Councilman Flanagan who served as Police Commissioner, reported that the name had been changed from Marshal to Police Chief and that the Chief was John Alge and Everett Hatfield was the Captain.  Other volunteers continued as deputies.

When Alge resigned in 1967, Ralph Hendrickson became Chief.  At that time, all police business was conducted from his home.  A special red phone and radio unit was installed and Mrs. Hendrickson, by virtue of the fact that she was married to the Chief, became police dispatcher.

Hendrickson said, “It was a 24 hour a day job.  Though an additional paid patrolman had been added to the force, the rest were volunteers”.  When one of the men had a conflict, the Chief had to take over, whether it was to investigate a robbery, arrest a speeder, or even remove a fish hook from a duck.  Hendrickson, at the time, had his own business to run.

Though Alge returned in November 1969, he died the following March.  In his honor, “The John Lester Alge Causeway” on Pine Tree Lane commemorates his hard work and accomplishments.  Hendrickson took over again, but only temporarily.  Times were changing and the State had passed a “Minimum Standards Act” requiring all police departments to meet certain selection and training requirements.

By November 1970, the volunteer police department was phased out and a fulltime paid staff took its place.  Though it meant additional costs for the Town, policemen were available to patrol the Town 24 hours a day for the first time.

With 2,328 residents in 1970, speeding tickets were no longer the primary violation of Town Ordinances.  Police had to handle thefts, larceny, drug dealings, disorderly conduct, assault, vandalism, and even suicides.

Winning respect from other departments was not easy in the beginning.  Former Police Commissioner Richard Krauss recalled an incident which occurred shortly after the Police Department was formed.  On a stakeout in the north end of the Town, the Sheriff’s Department posted a deputy in a resident’s yard.  When the resident summoned the Town Police to report a suspicious person, they arrested the Deputy because they had no idea who he was or what he was doing there.  After that, said Krauss, the Sheriff’s Department cooperated with the Town’s Police Department.

In 1974, the State tried to abolish all police forces with fewer than ten men.  Through the combined efforts of communities throughout the State, the movement failed and small departments survived.

The Police Department finally got its own headquarters.  The building, on the Town Hall property, opened in May 1987 under the auspices of Acting Chief Deborah Moody.  As in earlier years, residents again rallied to help when there was a need.  Spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts helped to fund the building.


Under the State Charter, the “Town Court of the Town of Lake Clarke Shores” was established to handle all violations of Town ordinances.  In most cases, fines were levied against guilty offenders though the Judge occasionally imposed a jail sentence.

Court sessions were held prior to the Town Council meetings at the Meadow Park School, with the Town Clerk serving as Clerk of the Court.  In 1965, Judge James Simpson requested a change of headquarters because of the seating arrangement in the school.  The seats were made for third graders, lending little dignity to a court of law.  The court moved to the Emmanuel Baptist Church but there were those who objected to handling court matters in a house of worship.  Eventually sessions were moved into the tiny quarters of the Town Hall on Pine Tree Lane.

In 1973, a constitutional amendment abolished all Florida municipal courts.  The County’s court system handled all matters for the next several years.


Yes, there was one!

Aquatic weeds, specifically hyacinths and elodea, have plagued Councilmen for 50 years.  They impede the flow of water, squeeze out native plants, and deplete the oxygen.

Because poisonous chemicals only add to the increasing water pollution, alternatives have been sought.  In the 1960’s, experiments were conducted by universities to determine whether manatees could replace these chemicals. 

The Council had considered purchasing two manatees for the lake, but the cost was prohibitive and experiments were not conclusive.  In 1969, John Riggs surprised the Town by persuading John D. McArthur to donate a manatee.  Unfortunately, it ate only hyacinth leaves, leaving the roots intact.  Even more sadly, it could not adapt to fresh water.

Of all the clubs organized in the early years, the Garden Clubs not only survived the longest, but remained a vital part of the Town.  The Lake Clarke Shores and the Sandpiper Club promoted interest in civic pride and beautification; both donated generously to the Town.

For nearly 50 years, much of the landscaping in the public areas of Town was donated by the clubs, and some plants were even planted and maintained by the members.  At the dedication of the Town Hall on February 20, 1977, the Lake Clarke Shores Garden Club donated the wall-sized map of the Town and the Sandpiper Garden Club contributed nine bird prints.  In 1995, the Sandpiper Garden Club planted and donated a Butterfly Garden to the Town dedicated to deceased members of both Garden Clubs.  Located on Town Hall property behind the original Police Department building, it is currently maintained by members of the Lake Clarke Shores Garden Club.

Although the Sandpiper Garden Club disbanded in 1998-99, the Lake Clarke Shores Garden Club continues to meet from September through May.  During these monthly meetings, the ladies have programs or workshops designed to promote interest in gardens to encourage the protection of wildlife, flowers, native trees and shrubs, to study flower arranging; and to learn more about the local parks, gardens, and wildlife amenities.

During its history, the Town of Lake Clarke Shores has had its share of squabbles.  At one time or another, politics has pitted friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, the north side of Town against the south, the east side against the west, sewers against septic tanks – and just about any other conceivable combination!  The issue of sewers vs. septic tanks was resolved by a vote of the Town residents on June 30, 2005 with a vote of 655 in favor of septic tanks vs. 141 in favor of sewers.

There have been two attempts to recall Council members, and even one effort to disband the Town.  Small Town politics?  You bet!

Closer examination reveals at least two reasons why various elements in Town sometimes disagree.  First, the Town of lake Clarke Shores is no longer as independent as it once was.  As Florida has grown, so has external bureaucracy.  Federal, State, Regional Taxing Districts, and County regulations mandate all but a few phases of Town government.  Those, and many other external influences have constantly been at work to change and shape the community, and every Council has had to learn to work within the framework of the ever-expanding legal encroachments over which they have little or no control.

Secondly, constant development and expansion brings newcomers with new ideas and methods.  The fact that they have not always been welcomed is neither surprising nor unique to the Town. 

Growth has nearly peaked at 3,450 residents.  There are fewer than a dozen scattered, vacant lots throughout the Town.

Despite the changes which have taken place over the years, the Town of Lake Clarke Shores is still a friendly, laidback sort of place far from the frenzied pace of the big City.  Just ask any of the original residents why they still live here and it is likely they will say “Well, it’s just the best place to be.”