The town of Windermere hosted a virtual public workshop to discuss the Windermere Ward Trail 90% plans Monday, July 11.
The Windermere Ward Trail project has been in the works for several years and focuses on developing a multimodal transportation path for walking, cycling and golf cart travel within the town.
The town’s federal appropriations request of $760,000 for funding of the project through the Safe Routes to School program championed by Congresswoman Val Demings — was signed into law March 14 — and the money will go toward Phase 1 of the project as well as the new planned pedestrian bridge.
In addition, Town Manager Robert Smith said the town also is waiting for funding from the Healthy West Orange alliance, which has dedicated about $5 million to interconnecting all of the trail systems within West Orange County.
Phase 1 of the plan runs .6 miles from North Drive to Park Avenue and includes a canal bridge.
Kimley-Horn Consultant Project Manager Mike Woodward said the organization has been working hard to minimize harmful impact to the trees in the area and to preserve vegetation after recommendations from Legacy Arborist Services and public comment.
“A lot of the alignment is similar to what we have presented in the past, but we have made some additional changes, primarily for tree mitigation,” Woodward said. “We have had several meetings in the past, we walked the site early on, a separate arborist was hired by the town and walked up and down with town staff to figure out which trees were invasive, which ones should be removed, and really account for all those things.”
LAS recommended root pruning or protection, porous paving and a gravel base under the trail. As far as tree removal, LAS recommended selecting invasive species and those with poor structure and poor conditions.
Since the 60% design plans, which were presented in a virtual public workshop Dec. 16, 2021, the town and planning and design partner Kimley-Horn made minor adaptations such as revising the alignment to avoid additional tree root impacts and relocating the golf cart connection to Lake Butler Boulevard to avoid impact on longleaf pine trees in the area.
Woodward said by moving the trail farther over and avoiding more of the critical root zone, the planners were able to save even more trees. The plans also include the addition of more trees that will fit in with the town’s current tree structure.
Smith said the plans will now be presented to the Town Council in August for final approval.
Future plans for the project include Phase 2, from Sixth Avenue to North Drive; Phase 3, along Sixth Avenue from Main Street to Apopka Vineland Road; and Phase 4, from Chase Road/Twelfth Avenue to Sixth Avenue.