‘Blue Jay Way’ near Spring Lake Elementary gets makeover
The pathway once known as Pig Alley behind Spring Lake Elementary got a facelift and a new name just in time for the new school year.
| 2:56 p.m. August 15, 2017
West Orange Times & Observer
OCOEE If you’ve walked through the alleyway lining the west side of Spring Lake Elementary lately, you might not even recognize it.
The once-dilapidated fence is now painted a bright blue, lined instead with colorful paintings of proud blue jays, the school’s mascot. It’s part of a cleanup project spurred on by the Ocoee Police Department’s Chaplain’s Unit and dozens of volunteers, who put in hours of hard work to help restore the alleyway — often referred to as Pig Alley — to a cleaner, brighter condition for the students who use it.
Before Pig Alley, now known as Blue Jay Way, was cleaned up, the dirt pathway was often lined with broken glass and debris. The fence was worn, missing some panels, painted different colors and even graffitied in some spots.
“…The police department felt that the pathway really needed to be improved for those kids. It’s a total transformation.” - Ocoee Police Deputy Chief Steve McCosker
The school itself was reconfigured two years ago, but the alleyway remained a sort of “no-man’s land.” Many of Spring Lake’s students live in close proximity to the school and are walkers who frequent the pathway.
That’s when the police department’s chaplain program decided it was time to do something.
“Our chaplain program as a group decided they wanted to become more involved with the community,” Ocoee Police Deputy Chief Steve McCosker said. “…The police department felt that the pathway really needed to be improved for those kids. It’s a total transformation.”
After about two months of planning, preparation and collection of materials, the department and church and community volunteers spent two Saturdays cleaning up the walkway, repairing fence panels and painting murals for the students. Lowe’s donated the wood and hardware needed, and Sherwin Williams donated the paint.
“Prior to bringing out these large mass volunteers, the chaplain group gathered some volunteers and then they started to clean up some of the glass at that time,” McCosker said. “Then they really painted the fence and did a more extensive cleanup.”
McCosker said about 200 people showed up on Saturday, Aug. 5, to repair and prime the fence with a base color. The following Saturday, about 75 came ready to paint the murals — a sky-blue background with white clouds and blue jays. Large block letters spell out the words “We are Blue Jays…We are proud!”
Prior to the extensive painting, someone had tagged the newly primed fence about 20 times with “Rx” symbols. McCosker said the police department has since installed cameras in the alleyway to monitor activity, since a lot of sweat equity went into the cleanup.
“Even though the kids are using it during the daytime, there are people using it in the evening and there was some activity going on in that alleyway that didn’t need to be happening in our community,” McCosker said. “When the kids are going to school, the condition of the alleyway was not conducive to kids (going to school) and learning.”
The police chaplains have already created a yearlong schedule for revisiting the alleyway once a month to ensure it remains free or debris and graffiti.
“I think they’re going to be very pleased with the effort the chaplains put into this,” McCosker said of the students and residents who use the alleyway. “People have already approached us and told us about how great they feel about it. They don’t want it to go back to the way it was.”