Cyclists, runners, walkers and business owners are rejoicing this morning. Mount Dora City Council voted 7-0 last night that the proposed Wekiva Trail should proceed to the next step.
The project requires a significant amount of logistics and a lengthy process for state and federal funding, so it may be 5 years before shovels hit the dirt, according to T.J. Fish, executive director of Lake Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization. Once construction begins, the project is expected to be completed relatively quickly.
The planned Wekiva Trail, provides Mount Dora the opportunity to enhance the community with a showcase regional bike trail that would connect its downtown with various neighborhoods. Additionally, the trail would link to Seminole and Orange counties to the Central Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail.
The vote last night by the Mount Dora City Council accepted the four-year study of the best trail alignment and to proceed so funds set aside in this year’s state budget will be utilize to design the trail.
"This is an important and greatly anticipated project for Mount Dora," said Mayor Nick Girone. "Our community could have a wonderful, new recreational amenity with a positive economic impact in the future."
Now the proposed trail will go before the Lake County Board of County Commissioners on March 1.Lake County has offered to accept the design funding and manage the engineering of the trail from Mount Dora east to the neighboring counties. Lake County is expected to move forward on the project due to Mount Dora's approval. Originally thought to be completed in one year, the project development and environment study that opened in 2012 is now nearing completion. Afte ranalyzing five alternatives, the study has resulted in a preferred route to follow the historic rail corridor currently utilized by Florida Central Railroad. Because of the utilization of the rail bed, no trees will be removed to accommodate the trail.
The trail would begin in downtown and cross Tremain Street and US 441 utilizing existing bridges. The trail would continue through Sorrento and Mount Plymouth to just east of Camp Challenge where the first completed segment of the Wekiva Parkway beltway project just opened to traffic.
A major trailhead is planned adjacent to the interchange of SR 46 and SR 429. At that trailhead, trail users can choose to continue east into Seminole County and the Seminole Trail or to turn south into Orange County to the West Orange Trail. Both of those trails are part of the 250-mile Central Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail. That extensive trail connects the Canaveral National Seashore in Brevard County to St. Petersburg in Pinellas County.Eighty percent of the coast-to-coast trail is complete with the remaining gaps to be filled.
The Wekiva Trail would utilize the existing public parking lot northwest of the rail trestle over Tremain Street. The railroad trestle would be preserved and would be adapted for walkers and cyclists by replacing the rail with a deck and adding safety railing. (see rendering). A sidewalk could be constructed under the trestle connecting the Tremain Street Greenway with the Wekiva Trail. The appearance of the iconic trestle will be preserved.
Reviewing agencies supported use of the trestle for the trail because that option was the best to ensure preservation of the trestle. The proposed alignment of the trail has been supported through a process involving the Federal Highway Administration, which is providing funding for studying, designing and eventually for constructing the trail.
Also supporting the effort through the planning process are the Florida Department of Transportation and the State Historic Preservation Office. The proposed alignment along the rail corridor was also supported by a cultural resource committee formed as part of the study and by the Mount Dora Historic Preservation Board.
Upcoming public meetings in Mount Dora will be planned for this spring. Additional information on the Wekiva Trail can be found at LakeWekivaTrail.com.
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Above: Rail bridge in Mount Dora to become part of trail. Below: Rendering of same bridge with trail. Design has since changed so railings are less visually obtrusive.
It is one of the most important local honors. Eustis Heights Elementary School Principal Rhonda Hunt has been named Florida’s Principal of the Year!
The state’s top administrators were announced today in a ceremony at the Commissioner’s Summit for Principals.
Hunt has been a principal for 10 years, during which time she has been involved in a new school opening, establishing parent-teacher organizations, building mentoring programs and drafting grant applications that have benefited her students. She is described as an exemplary instructional leader and has been commended for empowering her teachers to be leaders. Under her leadership, Eustis Heights has improved its school grade from an F to a C (based on 2014-15 simulated school grades).
The other finalists in the Principal category were Tamie Stewart of Parkside Elementary in Collier County and Steven Royce of Tara Elementary in Manatee County.
“What Rhonda Hunt has done at Eustis Heights is nothing short of outstanding,” said Susan Moxley, Ed. D., superintendent of Lake County Schools.
“She has a way of inspiring and bringing out the best in her students, faculty and staff. Parents and the community as a whole have supported her efforts. Together, they have done what’s best for students and produced tremendous results. To say Lake County Schools is proud to have her on our team is an understatement. She represents the best of Lake County Schools and we are excited that she is being recognized statewide for her success.”
Chad Frazier, assistant principal at Eustis Heights, was a finalist for the state’s Assistant Principal of the Year award along with Kahlil Ortiz of Dommerich Elementary in Maitland. Anne Bieber, assistant principal at Vero Beach High School, received that honor.
Frazier’s colleagues expressed an appreciation for his passion for learning and willingness to take on challenges toward an identified goal, as well as his dedication to creating innovative solutions. In just one year, he has already made an impact on Eustis Heights. With the support of his principal and through collaboration with school faculty, Frazier was able to reduce truancy by 50 percent during the 2014-15 school year.
“Mrs. Hunt and Mr. Frazier are a great team,” Dr. Moxley said. “We are thrilled for both of them.”
As recipient of the 2016 Principal of the Year award, Hunt will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and $1,000 for her school. The 2016 Assistant Principal of the Year will receive a cash prize of $2,500 and $500 for the school.
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A tremendous opportunity is knocking on Mount Dora's door. Via the planned Wekiva Trail, the city has an opportunity to enhance the community with a regional bike trail connecting its downtown with various neighborhoods. The proposed trail would also link to Seminole and Orange counties and indirectly to the Central Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail.
The trail would begin in downtown Mount Dora, and cross Tremain Street and U.S. 441 utilizing existing bridges. It would continue through Sorrento and Mount Plymouth to east of Camp Challenge where the first completed segment of the Wekiva Parkway project just opened to traffic.
An upcoming decision by Mount Dora City Council will determine whether the four-year study of the trail's path will be approved so funds in this year’s state budget can be utilized to design the trail. The proposed trail is ready for presentation to the city council on February 16.
"This is an important and greatly anticipated project for Mount Dora. I look forward to the presentation," said Mayor Nick Girone. "Our community could have a wonderful, new recreational amenity with a positive economic impact in the future."
If approval is granted, the proposed trail will go before the Lake County Board of County Commissioners March 1. It is expected the county will move forward on the project if it's supported by Mount Dora. The project development and environment study began in 2012 and is nearing completion. It analyzed five route alternatives, and concluded it was preferable to follow the historic rail corridor utilized by Florida Central Railroad. The use of the rail bed means no trees will be removed to accommodate the trail.
A major trailhead is planned next to the SR 46 and SR 429 interchange where users can opt to continue to Seminole County via the Seminole Trail or head into Orange County to the West Orange Trail. Those trails are part of the 250-mile Central Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail which connects the Canaveral National Seashore to St. Petersburg.Eighty percent of the coast-to-coast trail is complete.
The Wekiva Trail would utilize the existing public parking lot northwest of the historic rail trestle over Tremain Street. The railroad trestle would be preserved and adapted for walkers and cyclists by replacing the train rail with a deck and adding a safety railing. The use of the trestle for the trail was the best option to ensure its preservation.
The proposed trail path has been supported through a process involving the Federal Highway Administration, Florida Department of Transportation and the State Historic Preservation Office. The trail's alignment along the rail corridor is supported by a cultural resource committee and by the Mount Dora Historic Preservation Board.
Additional information on the Wekiva Trail can be found at LakeWekivaTrail.com or by contacting T.J. Fish at Lake~Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization at 352-315-0170.
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Above: Proposed design for Tremain Street trestle preservation
Above: Proposed route following historic rail corridor.
Last night's Mount Dora City Council meeting capped an end to the drama surrounding city manager Vince Pastue's announcement two weeks ago of his plan to resign. The council voted 5-2 to accept the separation agreement Pastue submitted to them. His last day will be March 4.
The city council will meet again on Thursday to discuss plans for an interim city manager while the professional search for a replacement city manager begins. Funds will not need to be allocated for the new search since Pastue is still under a guarantee period by the search firm.
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