“Lake O” is a paradise providing a teeming habitat for fish, wading birds and other wildlife, and it supplies essential water for people, farms, and the environment. The Lake provides flood protection and attracts recreation enthusiasts from around the world. It is also home to sport and commercial fisheries. Birds, alligators, wide-mouth bass, and endless species of fauna and flora create an outdoor environment perfect for boating, kayaking, canoeing, bass fishing, airboat rides, water and jet skiing, hiking, and camping. Outdoor enthusiasts have plenty of options with the Torry Island Campground and Marina (formerly the Belle Glade Marina Campground), the 18-hole Belle Glade Public Golf Course, the City of Pahokee Marina and Campground, Lake Okeechobee Outpost Campgrounds, and the South Bay RV Park, Campground, and Boat Ramp.
The historic 1,400-mile Florida Trail, which begins in Big Cypress and ends just outside of Pensacola at Gulf Islands National Seashore in the panhandle, circles Lake Okeechobee. The Southern and Eastern Trail follow the Herbert Hoover Dike, encountering the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam, one of five lock-and-dams on the cross-state Okeechobee Waterway, which extends from Stuart on the east coast to Ft. Myers on the west coast, running through The Lake and accommodating commercial vessels, fishing boats, and pleasure craft. Scenic views of The Lake, adjacent agricultural lands, sandhill cranes, and a variety of wading birds can be seen feeding in pastures east of the Dike. There are great views of the Everglades and lakeshore wildlife, and the best views of Lake O are along the dike’s east rim. Major recreation areas are accessible from the trail at Clewiston, Lake Harbor, South Bay, Pahokee, and on Torry Island west of Belle Glade.
The Tri-Cities offer the perfect combination of modern growth tempered with a relaxed country lifestyle. Life in this rural setting is more friendly and relaxed compared to urbanized Florida. The area is home to the Grassy Waters Festival, the Afro Arts Festival, the Black Gold Jubilee, as well as the annual three-day Pahokee Heritage Music Festival, held on the Lake at the Pahokee Marina.
Belle Glade is also proud of the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center located at Palm Beach State College Glades Campus, which presents play productions, music of all genres, and ballets.
Residents have access to rehabilitation & medium- and long-term care facilities such as the Alzheimer’s Community Care Specialized Adult Day Center, Butterfly Rehabilitation, Florida Community Health Center, Glades Healthcare Center, Glades Health Initiative, as well as Lakeside Medical Center (LMC). Part of the Healthcare District of Palm Beach County, the 50-acre LMC campus was built in 2009 and offers centers of excellence in Women’s Health, Emergency Care, Critical Care, Surgery, Physical Therapy, and all private rooms.
The region takes great pride in its students’ educational achievements; unlike many other rural Florida regions, the Tri-Cities’ public, private, and charter school students have higher-than-average graduation rates within the State of Florida, good FSA standardized testing scores, and solid B and C school ratings (instead of the D and F rating experienced in nearby rural districts). When Palm Beach County high schools and their students were awarded multiple honors through their participation in Advanced Placement courses and their successful performance on the culminating AP exams, Glades Central High School had two AP Scholars in 2011. Two students from Glades Central High School were selected as 2011 Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS); an estimated 23,000 students applied for the scholarship, but only 1,000 students were selected. Glades Central High School also served as a model school for the Lee Country School district and was visited by 38 administrators from nine Lee County schools to study its model for success; Glades Central earned a “B” rating from the State of Florida in 2011.
Glade View Elementary Received an “A” rating from the State for 2011. Tri-Cities elementary reading teachers from five schools formed The Glades Homegrown Institute to develop teaching strategies for all of their students. Reading teachers from Glade View Elementary, Rosenwald Elementary, Belle Glade Elementary, KEC/Canal Point Elementary, and Pioneer Park Elementary formed the partnership to improve their Readers Workshops, learn to set up their classrooms to make them more prone to reading, and identify the needs of each student. In the Readers Workshop program students learn to ask questions, make connections, recognize events, and improve their comprehension skills. Pioneer Park Elementary won a 2012 “Green School of Quality” Award from The Palm Beach County Green Schools Recognition Program.
There are 13 public K-12 schools in Belle Glade; five elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools, as well as 10 preschools. In Pahokee, there are three public K-12 schools: one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school, as well as nine preschools. There is a single public elementary school in South Bay, as well as five preschools, and a single public elementary school in Canal Point near Pahokee.
Palm Beach State College’s Belle Glade branch boasts enrollment of 1,750 as well as a high school dual-enrollment program. All three communities have their own branch of the Palm Beach County Library System, which in addition to municipal library services, also provides Adult, Teen, and Children’s Programs, as well as Computer Training Programs. Included in Palm Beach State College’s and the West Technical Education Center’s certification programs are welding, soldering, HVAC, construction, etc.
The Glades Region is home to the Lawrence E. Will Museum: A Museum of the Glades. Its mission is to conserve, display, and organize, for educational and research goals, the artifacts, memorabilia, photographs, and written records pertinent to this unique region adjacent to Lake Okeechobee and the upper Everglades, and the significance of the Will family in settling the Glades and preserving its early history.
The Museum, as the “interpreter of the Glades experience,” is expanding its areas of interest to include muck and sugarcane agriculture, water management — achievements, purposes, conflicts, and problems — and Upper Glades/Lake Okeechobee ecology, geology, and conservation.
The Museum is home to the largest known collection of artifacts of a prehistoric Native American people known as “the people of the Belle Glade Culture,” who lived throughout the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee Basin for 3,000 years, and were here when the Spanish arrived in 1513. The Belle Glade Culture built the largest canal system of prehistoric North America (one that connects the Atlantic to the Gulf through Lake Okeechobee), left extensive mounds and earthworks throughout the region, and is named after the site of the original excavation of these people which took place in the 1930s in Belle Glade.
The museum will promote its Belle Glade Culture collection to researchers and will tell the story of the people throughout Florida, which started with a major Viva Florida 500 exhibit in early 2013 funded by the Division of Historical Preservation. The Lawrence E. Will Museum also houses extensive information about the history of the Tri-Cities’ settlement, the various hurricanes that affected the region, and many of Mr. Will’s family’s privately owned artifacts, photographs, paintings, notes, writings, records, maps, and charts. The Lawrence E. Will Museum is located at 530 Main Street in the city of Belle Glade.