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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Apr. 20, 2018 1 year ago

Winter Park looks to keep city beautiful, sustainable

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The city is giving residents several opportunities to volunteer and make a difference.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

A clean community is a happy community, and it’s no different in Winter Park.

The city’s leaders have undertaken numerous initiatives to keep the city clean and environmentally sustainable — and residents are welcome to join their efforts.

Since 1993, Winter Park has been affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, a national nonprofit that seeks to inspire and educate people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment.  

Under the banner of Keep Winter Park Beautiful, Winter Park is involved in Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup, the largest community improvement program in the country and engages more than 5 million volunteers through the months of March through May. 

“We have a call to action to engage more volunteers and participants in these kind of public space cleanups and beautification projects, as well as recycling events,” Winter Park Sustainability and Permitting Planner Vanessa Balta Cook said. “Basically it’s wanting to get people excited about doing different things.”

One of those outlets is through community park workdays, during which residents volunteer their time to help with weeding, mulching and planting in local mini parks.

The next workday is slated for Saturday, April 21, at the Lasbury Maiden Mini Park at Lasbury Avenue and Maiden Lane.

The city kicked off this year’s Great American Cleanup March 24 in Trismen Park A future workday is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, at Alberta Courland Mini Park at the intersection of Alberta Drive and Courtland Avenue.

“Every little bit counts,” Balta Cook said. “There’s a lot of research that points to how impactful it can be having clean streets and having these kind of beatification efforts and not having litter. When people see litter, they automatically kind of earn this environment of ‘littering is OK.’ In terms of Keep America Beautiful and their tenets, it’s very important to recognize how one person can make a huge difference in a community. If we can get all these people together at these kind of cleanups, we can have a pretty big impact.”

That’s all in addition to the quarterly watershed cleanups put on by the city, with the last one taking place April 7 at Lake Virginia. There, 69 volunteers collected 320 pounds of trash on 944 acres of land that drains into the lake.

Keep Winter Park Beautiful also encourages local businesses, neighborhoods and church groups to coordinate their own cleanup efforts and recycling events while providing them with supplies like trash bags, gloves and litter grabbers.

Efforts like these have helped Winter Park receive national recognition, particularly from America in Bloom – a nonprofit organization that sponsors an annual nationwide competition between the most beautiful communities in the country.

“Community involvement and cleanups is really an important component of all of that,” Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Advisory Board member and America in Bloom judge Stephen Pategas said. “Volunteers learn about our parks and they also learn some good horticultural practices, and at the same time they’re assisting the parks and recreation department.

“A well-maintained community raises everybody’s spirits up, increases property values and puts a smile on everybody’s face,” he said.

The city is trying to keep items from the landfill and increase the reuse of items, as well. The Winter Park Public Library on Saturday will host a Don’t Pitch It, Fix It event — a repair café where residents can take in their items that are in need of repair. 

Balta Cook said many residents already may see Winter Park as clean, but it’s that way for a reason, she said.

“It’s that way because the residents care, and because the residents do participate in these kinds of events,” Balta Cook said.

Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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