Tucker Ranch construction continues in September

Tucker Ranch’s Phases 2A and 2B will include the 25.6-acre Holistic Health, Wellness, Teaching Farm and Family Activity Center.

Tucker Ranch will provide the Winter Garden community and beyond the opportunity to implement a healthier lifestyle through educational and engaging offerings.
Tucker Ranch will provide the Winter Garden community and beyond the opportunity to implement a healthier lifestyle through educational and engaging offerings.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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The Winter Garden community is one step closer to enjoying the highly anticipated Tucker Ranch Park and Nature Preserve, with Phases 2A and 2B of construction planned to kick off at the beginning of September. 

The city purchased the 209 acres at 100 Avalon Road in 2011 from Corinne Tucker. Judge C.M. “Pete” Tucker and his wife, Mary Matilda Thurmon Tucker, operated a cattle ranch in the 1940s.

The city spent $2.1 million and obtained a state grant for $900,000 to preserve and develop the property as a legacy park. It will include 20 acres transformed into a regional park with trails, fitness areas, multi-purpose buildings, canoeing, camping and a state-of-the-art working and teaching farm that will function as a regional food hub.

Key partnerships — between the city and physical and mental-health organizations — are working together to bring this health and wellness facility to Winter Garden. The goal is to capture the whole mind-body-soul concept and to create a culture of health and wellness.

The estimated $32 million project is being developed in two phases.

Completed Phase 1 includes the construction of the entrance road, pavilion, playground equipment, canoe/kayak launch, nature trails and restroom facilities. 

Phases 2A and 2B will include construction of the outdoor kitchen, retreat center, greenhouse, production barn, pond pavilion, exercise equipment, maintenance building, stormwater/pond and landscaping.

Construction completion for Phase 2 is estimated for July 21, 2026, although the timeline is subject to change as a result of weather or supply-chain issues.

City of Winter Garden representatives said health and wellness priorities are critical in creating a vibrant environment in which  residents can live, work, learn and play.

“Tucker Ranch is being designed and developed as a holistic health, wellness, teaching farm and family activity center that will have a profound and positive impact on our current and future residents and visitors for generations to come,” City Manager Jon C. Williams said. “To my knowledge, there is not another project of this type in the state or even the country that incorporates all of these elements/nodes together in a natural environment with the overall expected benefit of improving individual health and wellbeing, with the goal of either preventing, reducing symptoms of, or reversing disease.”


The Tucker Ranch health and wellness initiatives will focus on four main pillars: food and nutrition, fitness and rehabilitation, natural environment, and mental health.

“I’m excited to see the progress to date on Tucker Ranch, and I look forward to the ground breaking and construction of Phases 2A & 2B,” Parks and Recreation Director Laura Coar said.

Cooking classes in the kitchen pavilion will concentrate on healthy eating, and the farming space will allow folks — especially those with health issues — to benefit from edible and interactive gardening. 

A trail system with a variety of exercise nodes will allow residents of all ability levels to participate, including space and equipment for the average exerciser, serious fitness gurus, people who enjoy obstacle course challenges, children, folks with physical disabilities and seniors.

The former campground space will allow primitive camping, as well as canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding on Johns Lake.

A wellness area for meditation, yoga, tai chi and other programs has been established, and the city will build off the health, nutrition and fitness programming at the Jessie Brock Community Center.

The city estimates up to 20,000 students would take school field trips to the park and farm, and officials believe the park will attract 50,000 visitors annually. The city expects to host four health and wellness events annually, about 16 certified classes in nutrition, 16 more in fitness and 10 farm-to-table classes.

The project falls in newly elected District 2 Commissioner Iliana Ramos Jones’ area.

“I am thrilled to see the Tucker Ranch project come to life,” she said. “I’m ecstatic to be part of this project and to know that it will be completed in my tenure, God-permitting. This is a one-of-a-kind park, and I believe it will be a place where the residents of Winter Garden will come together to enjoy nature and more. This will also be a great place for families to enjoy a healthier living space, as it will have areas (comprising) wellness, farming, gardens, fitness, trails and an open-air demonstration kitchen in the Ranch House. I also want to give thanks to all the commissioners and city staff that have enabled this project to initialize and grow, but I would especially like to thank Bob Buchanan and Mike Bollhoefer, who were instrumental in the negotiations to make this happen.”

The project is being constructed with the help of multiple community partners, including Healthy West Orange, AdventHealth, Orlando Health, Shepherd’s Hope, American Heart Association, Community Health Centers, American Diabetes Association, UCP of Central Florida and Mental Health Association of Central Florida.

Tucker Ranch will feature myriad amenities with focuses on health and wellness.
Courtesy image

A $6 million lead grant, managed by the Foundation for a Healthier West Orange and provided by the recently dissolved West Orange Healthcare District, is helping to fund the new campus, which will feature a 5,000-square-foot retreat center, teaching and working farm, outdoor demonstration kitchen, greenhouse, gardens, trails, outdoor fitness and recreational areas.

“After more than 70 years of service in the West Orange community, the district understood the value of prevention as a priority for the overall health and wellbeing of residents,” Foundation for a Healthier West Orange CEO Tracy Swanson said. “The district worked extensively to invest in green spaces that will be activated to engage the community in healthy living. Tucker Ranch was a visionary project for the community, and as the project comes to fruition, the city of Winter Garden has been a tremendous partner. 

“Once complete, Tucker Ranch will serve as a key example of the value of collaboration as it relates to the health and well-being of our community,” she said. “The space will help activate the Healthy West Orange movement by providing access to green spaces for community health and wellness programming. In addition, Healthy West Orange will play a vital role alongside many key health partners in providing education and community engagement.”

Phases 2A and 2B will include construction of the retreat center.
Courtesy image


The Tucker Ranch property on Avalon Road in Winter Garden and adjoining lands were used as the original West Orange Country Club in the 1910s. The country club closed in 1924 following several years of heavy rains that caused Johns Lake to rise and flood the property and destroy the golf course.

The Tuckers bought the land in the 1940s for cattle grazing and citrus groves. They renamed it Tucker and Son Ranch and amassed about 150 head of commercial cattle, a Brahman-Hereford mixture that were sold at local livestock auction markets.

During World War II, folks were sent to work at Camp Kent, housed at the West Orange Country Club. Officers and scientists tested different types of new radar. The old country club banquet room was used as the officers club. They used a boat owned by Ford dealer Hoyle Pounds and tested their experimental radar on Lake Apopka. The scientific team also tested several kinds of mosquito repellent on the Camp Kent guards.

A dog trot is part of the Tucker Ranch project.
Courtesy image

Pete Tucker demolished the old country club building in 1950.

The campground was called Tucker’s Ranch Campground and opened on the eastern shores of Johns Lake in 1969. Folks were allowed tents, tent trailers, travel trailers or truck campers.

In October 2018, the city welcomed its first visitors to Tucker Ranch as the first part of Phase 1 opened. 

In 2020, the Bloom & Grow Garden Society, city of Winter Garden, Healthy West Orange and Cherrylake Tree Farm partnered to plant 1,000 bald cypress trees in the 209-acre park and preserve. 

The Tuckers’ 1950s block house will be preserved and will be home for a full-time caretaker.

The city’s purchase agreement stipulated that “Tucker” be included in the name of the new park and the historic archway at the park entrance stay onsite. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Overall, the converted cattle ranch estate provides 209 acres of “Old Florida” for the community to nourish mind, body and spirit.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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