Neighbors Get It Done

Linda Brockway, Mary Miller and Peggy Cannaday at the site of what they hope will become Serenity Park

Serenity Park may soon become Mount Dora’s next green space

During public comment at the July 19 meeting of city council, resident Mary Miller talked about “what it takes to make things happen” in Mount Dora. “If you want to get something done,” she said, “make a plan, declare your willingness to work, and ask someone for help,” she said.

That’s how Serenity Park, the latest green space in Mount Dora, is slowly coming into view.

For years, residents living next to a vacant lot at Ninth Avenue and Tremain dreamed of  possibilities. Years ago the city had a water tower on the site, but it was torn down in the 1980s.

Miller estimates that between two condominium associations on Tremain and 10th Ave. and modest homes in nearby neighborhoods “there are at least 80 people who don’t have any place close by to meet.”  A mini-park is what they envisioned—a place where they could relax and enjoy the quiet or read a book.

A water tower used to stand on the lot, but was torn down decades ago.
A water tower used to stand on the lot, but was torn down decades ago.

They could see further possibilities for walkers and cyclists passing by on the Tremain Street Trail, a shared-use trail completed in 2014 which runs from one end of Lincoln down to Tremain and over to Fifth Avenue. Except for few benches erected next to the Trail, there are no green spaces where they can rest.

Several years ago resident Doris Cole had contacted the City about such a park with no results.  But this year when she contacted Third District councilman Ed Rowlett, he was very encouraging.  Doris then became the catalyst that brought this group of residents together.  When she and other members of the team began contacting people with a petition to gauge interest in creating such park, to their delight, every person they asked loved the idea.

With help from neighbor and landscaper Darrin Peterman, the neighbors began brainstorming. They imagined a meandering walkway through the middle linking 9th Avenue and Tremain, interspersed with some benches and a few trash cans. Butterfly-garden shrubs would be planted throughout, as well as two live oaks. (There’s one old live oak now at the corner.) For cyclists, there could be a rack for their bikes, and possibly a repair station. A water fountain, perhaps with a dog watering bowl at the bottom.

Another nearby resident, retired architect Richard Santiago, prepared a preliminary drawing.

Initial design of Serenity Park
Initial design of Serenity Park

They next went to Mayor Girone and got a similar warm reception. He suggested the name “Serenity Park,” and asked several people and businesses to assist the effort.

Mount Dora Community Trust has partnered by creating a a start-up fund for Serenity Park and has matched the lead contributions of $1,500 from residents. (If you’re interested donating to the effort, stop by the Mount Dora Community Trust at 821 N. Donnelly to drop off your tax-deductible donation. Office hours are 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday.)

Mary Miller also got with Parks and Recreation director Roy Hughes, and he too loved the idea—especially because residents were so willing to help make it happen. “There are lots of talkers in this town, but there aren’t so many doers,” he says. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee also voice their unanimous support.

Hughes estimates that “phase one” of the park will cost between $12 and $15 thousand dollars,  none of which is in Parks and Recreation’s existing budget.  Funding may come through a variety of sources—a larger grant, say, from Mount Dora Community Trust. Mayor Girone has also applied for a $1,500 grant through the League of Florida Mayors. Serenity Park team member Peggy Cannady is working on a Commemorative Bricks fundraiser, to be available sometime in September.

There are some formal hurdles to clear first. The property needs to be properly surveyed. Since there once was a water tower on the site, there may be pipe to deal with underground. It will have to be rezoned by Planning and Zone for use as a park. Irrigation lines will need to go in, as well as potable water if there’s going to be a drinking fountain. If all goes as planned, the first phase of Serenity Park should be completed by early next year.

The Tremain Greenway Trail will become an even more popular when it will join with the 27-mile Wekiva Parkway Trail
The Tremain Greenway Trail will become an even more popular when it will join with the 27-mile Wekiva Parkway Trail

Parks and Rec will have responsibility for Serenity Park, but neighbors plan to assist in care for the park through the city’s Adopt-A-Park program.

Serenity Park will become even more of a bonus for the Tremain Trail when it extends down to the Tremain Street Trestle, there to link with the planned 27-mile Wekiva Parkway Trail. That in turn will link up with the 250-mile Coast to Coast Trail, a 260-mile recreational course from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The trail will also connect to a network of trails in Orange and Seminole Counties.

Miller notes that the Tremain Trail continues to grow in popularity. “In addition to the usual walkers, runners and cyclists, we’re seeing wheelchairs, young families and visually impaired walkers. The Serenity Park will be an ideal respite for all Trail users, as well as neighbors.”

“It was a pleasure helping Ms. Miller and her enthusiastic neighbors,” Ed Rowlett said, adding that as of mid July, $1,400 has been raised by the Serenity Park volunteers to get this project off the ground.

“There are a lot of items yet to be worked out,” Mayor Girone said, “but Mary has been diligent in her efforts and is gaining more ideas and support each day.”

It just goes to show that things do happen in Mount Dora. All it really takes people who are willing to do the work.

David Cohea, Writer (david@mountdoracitizen.com)