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POLK COUNTY — A family living on Airlie Road near Shady Lane Road found a big surprise tucked under the cover of heavy vegetation on their property last month: An illegal marijuana grow.

The Polk Interagency Narcotics Team responded to the shocking find and cleared the site July 6, said Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton.

“We did respond to a call from a property owner on Airlie Road, near Shady Lane Road, who had been flying their drone for fun on their property and they noticed something that didn’t look right in an area that they normally do not go to because of the heavy vegetation,” Garton said.

He said he wasn’t at all surprised that the property owner had not noticed it before, considering the terrain.

“This area had quite a bit of elevation change, berms and dense vegetation and based on all that, it doesn’t surprise me that no one had seen it previously,” Garton said. “Another example is that one of our folks were on the edge of the field, closest to the river, and still couldn’t hear or see the river because of the vegetation.”

No one was at the site when POINT responded, so the sheriff’s office is looking for assistance in finding those responsible for the secret grow.

“There was evidence that multiple people were actively staying/living in their grow site, as we found campsites and other camping related items that lead us to that conclusion,” Garton said.

He said that the site had more than 1,000 plants, which are estimated to produce about two pounds of marijuana each. A watering system was in place, as well. Garton said the site had an estimated value of $4 million, the largest illegal grow the sheriff’s office has cleared in several years.

“Some plants can produce over 10 pounds, so my estimate is conservative,” Garton said.

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