For those that know her, Crissy Stiles isn't just a hardworking downtown shopkeeper. She's also a witty, generous and passionate soul. In late March, undeterred by downtown construction, Stiles put her passion and generosity to work, as she planted her first vegetable garden in elevated planters outside her book store.
Stiles, owner of Barrel of Books & Games, planted Jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, asparagus beans, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower. Many of her crops were harvested and eaten. However, the greatest challenges was not enough sun for some vegetables, according to Stiles.
"The asparagus beans have run their course, gave most of them away. I'd be glad to give away the lettuce and tomatoes to anyone that wants them. Lettuce is ready now, tomatoes should be ready for picking in about a week", said Stiles.
Stiles says passersby have been cooperative by not looting the garden and adds, "If anyone would like anything just come inside and ask. Happy to share."
As the school year comes to a close, children's excitement is almost palpable. The anticipation of sleeping, plopping themselves in front of a screen and no homework makes them near giddy.
Somehow that excitement fades within the first few weeks, and moans of boredom begin to set in. Restlessness doesn't have to take hold with so many options of summer day camps in the area. Here are just a few to help save your sanity and theirs:
GENERAL INTEREST CAMPS: City of Mount Dora: Kidz Quest Summer Camp Ages: 5-10 Cost: $85 per week Phone: 352-735-7183
City of Mount Dora: Middle School Mayhem Ages: 11-14 Cost: $85 per week Phone: 352-735-7183
City of Eustis Parks and Recreation Summer Camp Ages: 5-12 Cost: $50 per family Phone: 352-357-8510
City of Tavares Summer Camp Ages: 5-10 Phone: 352-742-6370
Golden Triangle Elementary Day Camp Ages: 5-12 Phone: 352-343-1144 1465 David Walker Rd., Tavares
ART: Mount Dora Center for the Arts Summer Camp Ages: 5-12 Cost: $85 per week (half day camp), $150 per week (full day camp) Phone: 352-383-0880
DANCE: Studio 19 Dance Camp Cost: $149 per week Phone: 352-589-8622 128 E. Magnolia Blvd., Eustis
Golden Triangle YMCA Dance Camp Ages: 5-12 Phone: 352-343-1144 1465 David Walker Rd., Tavares
BASEBALL: Lake Sumter Little League Soccer Camp Ages: 7-14 Cost: $125 per week (half day) 352-787-3747
BASKETBALL: Golden Triangle YMCA Ages: 11-15 Phone: 352-343-1144 1465 David Walker Rd., Tavares
HORSEBACK RIDING: Cara Blanchard Training Summer Horse Camp, Eustis Ages: 5-13 Cost: $240 (4 day camp) 352-406-8199
Dream Horse Equestrian Center, Eustis Ages: 7-16 Cost: $250 per week Phone: 352-636-9053
KARATE: Central Florida Karate Studios Phone: 352-516-7666 2800 W. Old Hwy 441, Mount Dora
SAILING: Lake Eustis Sailing Club Ages: 8-18 Cost: $250 per session 1310 CR 452, Eustis
Many knew her as the elegant face of Mount Dora's finest dining. For years, her graceful and humble presence greeted diners and friends as they entered Goblin Market. Sadly, Diane Brewer lost her battle with cancer earlier this month. Not surprising, she always retained the same grace that earned her the community's admiration over the years.
Born in Manasquan, NJ, Diane was passionate about family meals, reading, and the beach. She is survived by two daughters, Caitlin and Monica. "Some of my fondest memories are riding along in her convertible, top-down, headed to New Smyrna Beach or of her preparing dinner and talking about the events of our respective days." wrote Monica. "After dinner was when she would enjoy sitting at the table, sharing her wisdom about life and stories of her childhood."
Diane will be remembered fondly and the community extends its deepest sympathies to her family and many friends.
During passionate community issues sometimes facts get blurred among the misinformation and misstatements. Here's a fact check on some common statements:
STATEMENT: The roots of the trees will cause damage to the infrastructure, sidewalks and building foundations.
FACT: False. Urban landscape architects utilize root barriers and engineered soils in downtown areas so roots grow down instead of out. These common planting practices have been used successfully for years to prevent roots from interfering with underground infrastructure, foundations and sidewalks. Future root damage in downtown Mount Dora has been mitigated because all newly planted trees in downtown Mount Dora will be installed with root barriers, according to acting city manager, Mark Reggentin, at the May 5th city council meeting
STATEMENT: All the downtown street trees are being replaced.
FACT: False. Many of the oak street trees are being substituted with palms and smaller ornamentals. 'Street trees' refers to trees that line the streets. 16 street trees were removed during this phase of construction, 15 Laurel oaks and 1 Sycamore. According to information provided by the city of Mount Dora on April 14, there is a net loss of 11 canopy street trees that are not being replaced with canopy trees. This loss pertains to the canopy on 4th Avenue between Alexander and Baker, plus Donnelly between 3rd and 4th Avenues. It does not include parking lot trees or any canopy street tree loss from the two previous phases of construction.
STATEMENT: Live oaks can reach 60' in height with a 60'+ spread and require 100-333 square feet of planting area. (Attribution: City of Mount Dora's Planning and Zoning Department responsible for the current landscape plan that the city council approved.)
FACT: True of a Southern Live Oak. However, Southern Live Oaks are not the variety of Live Oaks used by landscape architects experienced in designing shady, narrow streetscapes. These professionals use much smaller Live Oak cultivars specifically designed for tight spaces such as lining sidewalks, streets and entry ways. Examples of Live Oak cultivars used in a downtown streetscapes include: Sanford, Eustis' award-winning streetscape, Winter Park's award-winning streetscape, Tampa, and Sarasota. It is important to refer to the right type of Live Oak for the right place.
STATEMENT: Mount Dora doesn't have the money to purchase the shade trees.
FACT: False. The viable shade tree replacements can be less expensive than the 4 date palms and other ornamentals budgeted in the current plan.
STATEMENT: We cannot allow trees to grow against buildings, causing maintenance and liability issues. 15' is actually too little for a species with a 60' spread..." (Attribution: City of Mount Dora's Planning and Zoning Department responsible for the landscape plan that the city council approved)
FACT: True. However, referring to the 60' spread is referencing the Southern Live Oak. This is not the type of Live Oak used by landscape architects designing shady, narrow streetscapes. They use much smaller Live Oak cultivars specifically designed for tight spaces. Examples of these types of Live Oak cultivars used in a downtown streetscapes near buildings include: Sanford, Eustis' award-winning streetscape, Winter Park's award-winning streetscape, Tampa, and Sarasota. It is important to refer to the right type of Live Oak for the right place. No one has suggested the Southern Live Oak is right for downtown streets. Additionally, street tree canopies do not grow and spread as field and park trees do. (see additional facts on canopy growth below)
STATEMENT: Shade trees will block business signage downtown. (Attribution: City of Mount Dora's Planning and Zoning Department responsible for the landscape plan)
FACT: False. Street trees do not have the same growth pattern as field or park trees of the same species. Street canopies naturally grow toward the sunlight and away from the buildings. Store signage remains easily visible. Examples of this include Park Avenue in Winter Park which is a heavily forested street with completely unobstructed store signage along their shaded 7'-9' sidewalks lined with live oak cultivars and other shade trees.
STATEMENT: Mount Dora must replant as large of oaks or shade trees as possible to quickly replace the canopy.
FACT: False. Once mature trees have been cut down, immediate replacement of canopy is not possible. Larger trees incur more stress when replanting, require more initial care and the rate of survivability drops. Replanting smaller caliper trees (3-5" caliper) do better when planted, require less care, and respond well to root barriers. A 3" caliper tree can catch up to a 6" caliper within three years. This because an unstressed tree has a faster growth rate. (Note: caliper measurements on young trees are taken at 6" above the soil. Once a tree's caliper is over 4" the tree is measured at a height of 12 inches).
STATEMENT: Winter Park is able to have oaks and shade trees because their downtown core has 25' sidewalks (Attribution: Mount Dora city officials)
FACT: False. Measurements taken May 11 on Park Avenue, Winter Park's main street in its downtown core, show typical sidewalks are between 7'-9' feet from the face of the buildings to the planting strip. The statement of 25' sidewalks is off by 14'+. Planting strips are not included in sidewalk measurements, however even when adding Park Avenue's typical planting strips measuring 5-6', it would still make the statement of 25' erroneous by 11'+ feet.
STATEMENT: The removal of downtown Mount Dora's shade canopy can create an Urban Heat Island, the environmental condition where an urban area is warmer than the surrounding rural area.
FACT: True. However, the city can add heat island mitigation programs to their annual budget.
STATEMENT: Only a handful of residents care about the trees. (Attribution: City Council member during May 5 city council meeting
FACT: False. Council members have reported receiving dozens of letters from residents supporting downtown's shade. Hundreds of residents have commented on local social media pages in support of shade, while others have posted similar comments on local online media. A petition of 501 signatures in support of the trees was reportedly presented to the city's own Historic Preservation Board in April.
STATEMENT: There were numerous public meetings on this issue where residents could have voiced their opinion.
FACT: True. Over a period of years, Mount Dora held regular public city council meetings, workshops and construction meetings about downtown's streetscape project. Those meetings were not advertised to residents specifically about the consequences to downtown's shade canopy. For almost a year hundreds of residents participated in ENVISION Mount Dora, where residents helped define and plan the city's future. During that extensive process which was completed in 2011, residents did not request removal or reduction of the tree canopy nor express a desire for an increase in palm trees.
STATEMENT: There are other viable canopy street tree options besides Live Oak cultivars that would be the right tree in the right place in downtown.
FACT: True. There are other viable canopy street trees and medium tree options that can be mixed into the downtown street canopy.
Sources: EPA, City of Winter Park, City of Eustis, City of Sanford, University of Florida Department of Urban Forestry.
It's not all about charm, shade and history. Mount Dora's street trees have significant economic benefits.
Research shows street trees enhance a community's economic stability by attracting businesses and tourists alike, according to the Southern Group of State Foresters. The group states, "Customers are willing to pay as much as 10% more for certain goods and services if businesses are located on tree-lined streets" and that shade encourages patrons to linger and shop longer. Another group, American Forests, reports customers will pay up to 12% more in tree-lined shopping districts.
In Mount Dora's downtown core, many commercial rents are disproportionately higher than other tourist areas in Florida. Additionally, downtown Mount Dora has fewer busy months than other areas of high tourism. Due to its inland location, downtown Mount Dora businesses depend on a single 6 month busy season, while other Florida tourist areas have 2 seasons: a winter snowbird season and a summer beach season. Therefore, any sustained reduction in revenue is critical to the economic health of downtown.
Shade trees can lower air-conditioning costs of a business by decreasing energy use. "If planted near a building, trees can reduce energy bills by up to 40 percent", according to American Forests, the nation's oldest, non-profit conservation organization. Likewise, reducing shade increases energy costs. Mount Dora businesses in the Sunset Building on Third Avenue and Baker where oak trees were removed and replaced with palm trees last year, have experienced sharp increases in their electric bills. Earth Diva Designs and Two B's Studio energy costs have risen an estimated 30 percent, according to Sonya Watson, owner of Earth Diva.
A significant rise in energy costs combined with disproportionate rents and the potential reduction of what customers are willing to spend in the area would negatively impact the existing downtown businesses community, as well as deter new businesses.
'Artist colonies across the country are celebrated as some of the most desirable communities. In Florida, Mount Dora has garnered accolades for being such a community.
Once a month visitors and residents are reminded of one of the historic downtown's greatest assets: its local artists. Mount Dora Art Stroll happens on the second Friday of every month and invites visitors to leisurely walk to the different galleries and artists' studios to view art, sip wine and appreciate the growing creative community. Many of the participating artists also attend the top juried art shows in Florida, as well as throughout the U.S.
The diversity of art ranges from acrylics like those of painters Emily Lewis, Jane Slivka and Bev Neal, to Bowersock Gallery's oils, mixed media, sculptures, and encaustic works. A stop at the Baker Street Artist Studios is always worth a visit during Art Stroll. The artists' galleries on the second and third floors of the Sunset Building are brimming with varied styles of paintings, weaving and award-winning jewelry designs by Sonya Watson and Barbara Boyce. The accomplished artists are also on hand to eagerly answer questions about their work, techniques and creative points of view.
Participants can pick up a map of participating galleries at Mount Dora Center for the Arts and view the impressive exhibits the center regularly installs. Mount Dora Art Stroll is a free event and occurs on the second Friday of every month from 6-8pm. For more fun, free things to do in Mount Dora click here.