The 27th Run for the Trees 5K will take place Saturday beginning at the Ward Park near the Center for Health & Wellbeing.
Years ago, Genius Drive was one of the most popular tourist spots in the city of Winter Park. People traveled from across Florida to the area to see the scenic views and trees.
“Back in the day, people used to go there and drive on this beautiful dirt road that was full of peacocks, where people would picnic and drive through,” said Johnny Miller, events manager for Winter Park “It was a Sunday morning (activity) … it was old Winter Park.”
But eventually, the privately-owned stretch of dirt road closed itself off and remains hidden away from the public.
Except for one day a year.
On Saturday, April 27, Winter Park residents will have a chance to run through the Genius Drive property as part of the 27th annual Run For The Trees 5K. Almost 1,800 runners will gather at Ward Park behind the Center for Health & Wellbeing for a 5K that takes them all the way to the dirt road of the historic Winter Park property. When the race concludes, the gates shut for another year.
Trees for All
There’s another special inclusion that distinguishes the Race for the Trees 5K — each runner receives his or her own red cedar tree sapling at the end of the race. The winners of each race category also receive larger trees — purchased by the city’s Urban Forestry Department — to mark their achievements. It’s all to encourage residents to plant more trees, Miller said.
“We believe in a diversity of tree, every year’s (prize) is a different type of tree,” he said.
The event usually starts at Showalter Field each year, but 2019’s race starts at the recently renovated park adjacent to the Center for Health & Wellbeing. Natalie Casey, vice president of communications for TrackShack, has been involved with Run for the Trees since its first year. She said the race was created to encourage reforestation of Winter Park’s foliage.
“(Genius Drive) makes the race,” Casey said. “Those first two miles are lovely, but that’s the beauty right there.”
As you’d expect from a nature-conscious 5K, Run for the Trees 2019 will not have disposable cups on the trail to curb waste and damage to Winter Park’s landscape. Reusable cups will be available, but runners are encouraged to bring their own cups when they hit the trail.
“By going cup-free, we’re keeping wax cups out of the landfills because those are not recyclable,” Casey said.
If You Go: 27th Run For The Trees 5K
WHEN: 7:30 a.m. Saturday, April 27
WHERE: Race starts at Ward Park behind the Center for Health & Wellbeing and ends at Genius Drive. Parking is at Ward Park, 250 Perth Lane, Winter Park