by Anne Mooney / January 10, 2020
In an economic climate in which developers threaten to gobble up every square inch of open land, a hearty band of Winter Parkers deserves our gratitude for making sure our largest parks are protected from development and will remain forever green.
Six Winter Park citizens – Michael Poole, Charley Williams, Peter Gottfried, Marty Sullivan, Forest Michael and Kim Allen – have worked tirelessly since May of 2016 to make sure the city government took the necessary steps to preserve five of our largest parks for “outdoor recreation in perpetuity.”
The five parks – Phelps Park, Lake Baldwin Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, the Community Center swimming pool and Temple Trail – had received money from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP). This program provides state funds to municipal and county governments to acquire or develop lands for public outdoor recreation.
The FRDAP grant comes with a condition. For each park receiving a grant, a deed restriction for the park must be filed with the Orange County government pledging that the site is dedicated to “outdoor recreation in perpetuity.” Over the years, beginning in 1974 with Lake Baldwin Park (a/k/a Dog Park), money was dispersed and work was done, but the deed restrictions fell through the cracks, leaving open the door to disposal and/or development of some 122 acres of parkland.
When the citizen group learned in 2016 that deed restrictions and site dedications had not been filed for these parks, they brought the matter to the attention of the City and of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
The happy ending to this story is that, after three and a half years of phone calls, emails, letters and meetings, Kim Allen received notification from the FDEP that the deeds were filed and the parks protected.
The email read: “Good Morning . . . and Happy New Year! I am . . . sending this email to let you know that the City of Winter Park recorded the following Notices of Limitation of Use – Site Dedications, for the projects listed below [i.e., the five parks], with the Orange County Clerk of Courts office. Thank you for your continued patience working with our team and the city to secure these recordings.” The email was signed by Angela Bright, Community Assistance Consultant, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Credit goes to Brenda Moody of the Winter Park Public Works Department, who performed the exacting task of making sure the paperwork was properly completed and filed with the county and state agencies.
This kind of behind-the-scenes dedication and dogged determination by citizens who are just like everyone else – with jobs and families and busy lives – is what makes Winter Park such a special place to live. The same tactics that worked for John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt to establish the national park system worked for our very own neighbors. We should be both proud and grateful.