Winter Garden approves Tucker Ranch park partnership

Winter Garden leaders approved a community partnership with the West Orange Healthcare District to construct a health and wellness park at Tucker Ranch.

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  • | 10:32 a.m. October 28, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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The Tucker Ranch Health and Wellness Park is another step closer to becoming a reality.

Winter Garden commissioners approved unanimously during their Oct. 22 meeting a resolution that supports the creation of a community partnership with the West Orange Healthcare District and other community partners. According to city documents, the partnership will go into effect upon WOHD’s board approval.

The city intends to enter into a grant agreement as part of the partnership, and the grant will help fund the construction of the health and wellness park. The park will provide the facilities, setting and programming to improve the health and wellness of West Orange residents.

The WOHD and other organizations will provide the funding to construct the park, and the city has agreed to fund the park’s operation and maintenance. Additionally, the eventual goal is to link the park to the West Orange Trail system along Avalon Road, city staff said.

City Manager Mike Bollhoefer told commissioners the park would be the first of its kind in the United States.

“We met with the West Orange Healthcare District board, and their 13-member board that makes the recommendations voted unanimously, but they did have a few questions that they wanted answered,” Bollhoefer said. “The grant is for $6 million. We had subsequently met with Advent-Health, and they’ve agreed to a substantial amount of money, and we’re finalizing that now. We also plan on meeting soon with Orlando (Health). Our goal is to raise a total of $10 million to build this park.” 

Bollhoefer said city staff intends to link the park via bike paths to the West Orange Trail along Avalon and Tildenville School roads, as well as along Avalon Road south to Horizon West.

“This resolution also states it would form a partnership with the two hospitals and would also form partnerships with the American Heart Association, American Mental Health Association, American Diabetes Association as well as several other groups — Shepherd’s Hope and UCP (included),” he said. “It’ll be one of the most amazing parks in all of West Orange County and then the first of its kind in the U.S.”

Commissioner Bob Buchanan said he was approached nearly 12 years ago and told that the Tucker family did not want to see the 209-acre property — known today as Tucker Ranch — be developed. The city purchased the property in 2011 and obtained a state grant to preserve and develop it as a legacy park.

“From that point until now, I have to give all the credit to the Winter Garden staff, and Mike (Bollhoefer) in general for putting that staff to work on putting this entire thing together out there at Tucker Ranch,” Buchanan said. “What’s out there right now … I’d say at least a thousand people a weekend go out there with their kids and everything and use the park out there, but that’s just one little tiny step.”

Buchanan added that one of the biggest questions he’s been asked regarding the park was whether the city would be fully committed to making it happen. He said he believes the city has proven its intentions.

“It’s going to be something I know I will constantly be coming back to see … what goes on out there,” Buchanan said.



City leaders also approved the master site plan for the property at 12301 W. Colonial Drive, as well as the site plans for a Home2 Suites hotel and 7-Eleven.

The projects are part of the 8.25-acre Peoples Plaza planned commercial development. Home2Suites will be a four-story, 95-room hotel building with parking, sidewalks and outdoor-recreation amenities. 

A 1.27-acre piece of the property is where the 7-Eleven gas station will be located. Plans include a 3,454-square-foot convenience-store building, gas canopy, eight fueling station with 16 fueling positions, and a 980-square-foot car wash.

“This development includes demolishing all buildings on the entire site,” Community Development Director Steve Pash said. “They would provide all of the landscaping along Carter Road, on the pond in the back, as well as along State Road 50. It’s also included an improvement to Carter Road through the fair share agreement. … The improvement to Carter Road would include left and right turn lanes onto State Road 50, curbing in that area and drainage, as well as repaving that whole section.”

Following Mayor John Rees’ concerns about the hotel aesthetics, developer and architect Dale Parsons said the hotel being built is the latest prototype.

“It’s quite an upgrade,” Parsons said. “I met with staff, and we’re very consistent with the approved style, and I think it is … a lot better than the old prototype. I’m perfectly open to re-address that. If it’s minor items, it won’t be a problem.”