There will no doubt be tears. The sprawling wooden beacon beloved by children and parents of Mount Dora for almost three decades will soon disappear. The aging play fort at Gilbert Park, a treasure trove of childhood memories for local families, will be permanently closed to the public on September 21 in preparation for its demolition on September 24.
After 28 years, the City of Mount Dora is replacing the charming old-school fort with a modern steel and plastic pirate ship for children from ages four to twelve. According to the City, the average life span of commercial playgrounds is approximately 15 to 20 years and the City’s Parks Department employees noticed the wooden structure was falling increasingly into disrepair causing safety concerns. The popular fort was built by the Mount Dora Woman’s Club in 1990 with the help of over a thousand volunteers spanning one week.
In June, the City Council made the decision to replace the structure, prior to the completion of the Parks Master Plan. The $263,000 price tag of the pirate ship will be funded by the Parks Impact Fee fund.
The durable pirate ship, dubbed the “Intrepid” by the manufacturer, Kompan, is approximately 60 feet long and 20 feet tall. It features two slides, a rope course and a sliding pole, as well as various interactive components on the upper deck and ground level. The ship isn’t wheelchair accessible, according to a representative from the Texas-based company. (Scroll down to view a video of the new play ship).
During demolition, the park and facilities will remain open but the playground area will be off limits. The playground will also be fenced off starting September 21, 2018.
A date of completion and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new equipment will be announced in the near future.
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City leaders in Eustis are always developing new ways to set the city apart. This fall, residents won’t be disappointed. The city will feature a downtown ice-skating rink, yes with real ice! The exact location is still being hammered out, but skaters are tentatively expected to hit the ice from November 19 to January 7.
The project will be dependent on community sponsorships, grants, and donations of approximately $115,000. The city budgeted $20,500 of its funds plus city services. Ticket sales, concession sales and rentals will make up the remaining revenue needed, according to Kristina Rosenburg, City of Eustis Public Relations Coordinator.
Admission prices have not been determined yet, but the city is planning discounted admission for children and groups of over 20 people. The skating rink will also be available for events and party rentals.
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One of the Mount Dora area’s most anticipated recreational projects is the Wekiva Trail. The large project is a cycling and hiking trail that would connect Mount Dora to other existing trails through thousands of acres of preservation land and destinations such as Rock Springs Run, Wekiva Springs State Park, as well as both coasts of Florida. Here are eight things you need to know about the project:
1. In a nutshell, what is the Wekiva Trail? It's a 15-mile, multi-use trail that will provide hikers, cyclists and nature enthusiasts a regional connection among Lake, Seminole and Orange Counties. Mount Dora would be connected by this trail to the Central Florida Coast to Coast Trail which covers more than 200 miles from Cape Canaveral National Seashore to downtown St. Petersburg on the opposite coast.
2. Where will the main trailhead be located? The main trailhead is near Camp Challenge and the CR 46A interchange in Mount Plymouth/Sorrento. Downtown Mount Dora and the East Lake Regional Park will also have trailheads.
3. What is the process to complete the trail? The project has four sequential phases: Project Development & Environmental Study (PDE), Design, Right of Way (ROW) acquisition and lastly, the construction phase.
4. Who owns the train tracks? Well, that has always been where it gets a little tricky. CSX Transportation owns the real estate the tracks are on. The tracks, other infrastructure, and the rights to operate on them are owned by the operator, Florida Central Railroad.
ABOVE: Mount Dora's historic railroad trestle on will be at the Tremain St. trailhead.
5. What is the trail's current stage of development? The trail consists of four segments in different phases as follows:
Segment 1: Mount Dora’s Tremain Street trestle to Sorrento Elementary School and East Lake Regional Park: The segment is planned to follow the existing railbed by either removing the tracks or running parallel to them. This piece has some sticky funding issues, as explained below. Stage: Neither Lake County nor the City of Mount Dora has allocated the agreed-upon $1 million each to pay Florida Central Railroad to abandon the operational rights and preserve the ROW as a designated transportation corridor. Before Mount Dora & Lake County will commit to their halves of the $2 million payment to Florida Central Railroad, they want to know FDOT is committed to buying the real estate from CSX. If that doesn’t come to fruition, a new study would be done to examine putting the trail along SR 46 into Mount Dora
Segment 2. The section goes from the main trailhead at Mount Plymouth/Sorrento’s Camp Challenge west to CR 437 and East Lake Regional Park next to Sorrento Elementary. Stage: This section is currently under design and partial FDOT ROW funding is secured. Construction funding is still pending.
Segment 3. This stretch will feature the future regional trialhead at Camp Challenge. This portion of the trail will run parallel to a new toll-free, two-lane road that will be next to an elevated portion of State Road 429. The trail will be separated by a safety barrier and connect to Seminole County and the Lake Markham Trail, which will connect it to the Central Florida Coast to Coast Trail (C2C Trail). Stage: Under construction; open by 2020
Segment 4. This portion will start at trailhead by Camp Challenge and extend south along the west side of SR 429 into Orange County to CR 435 on land owned by Lake County. Stage: In design phase. Funded for construction; open 2021.
Possible Segment 5: Mount Dora to Tavares section will be entering a feasibility study this year.
6. What will happen to the Tremain Street railroad trestle? The current plan is to preserve and adapt the trestle for walkers and cyclists by replacing the train tracks with a deck and adding a safety railing. The use of the trestle for the trail was the best option to ensure its preservation.
7. What is the earliest portion of the trail to be completed? The easternmost segments of the trail will open around 2020-21 from Camp Challenge (CR 46A’s interchange) east toward Seminole County or south into Orange County.
ABOVE: Rendering of renovations to Mount Dora's historic trestle.
8. What will the Wekiva Trail mean for Mount Dora? The completed trail project would provide a showcase regional trail for the residents of Mount Dora and Lake County and an eco-tourism opportunity to attract enthusiasts from throughout Florida and elsewhere.
"This is a transformational project," said T.J. Fish, a planning consultant who for 13 years headed the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization and has been working on the trail project for the last seven years. "For Mount Dora to connect to the Central Florida Coast to Coast Trail with a spur from downtown through the Wekiva Greenway, a heightened level of economic development and quality of life will be experienced." Fish points to communities like Winter Garden and Dunedin that experienced rebirths as a result of the Florida C2C Trail.
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There always seem to be new businesses popping up in downtown Mount Dora, but rarely is one so long overdue.
A new bike share and rental company, Mount Dora Bikes, plans for its fleet of new bicycles to hit the road by mid-August or early September. The business will launch with twelve custom aluminium bikes, six of them available for hourly rentals, while the others will be for daily rentals. Read more
It’s been the city’s most treasured playground for almost thirty years. Gilbert Park’s play fort, shaded under large oaks across from Mount Dora’s lighthouse, has been home to countless games of hide-and-seek since its construction in 1990.
In recent years, the castle-type structure, designed for kids from ages five to twelve, has come under disrepair and now the city is ready to introduce a replacement due to the high cost of maintenance and replacement parts.
The new playground, recently approved by Mount Dora City Council, will feature a large pirate ship as the focal point with maze-like passageways, swings, role-playing elements, a rope gym and more creative features. The project is targeted for completion in October in time for the cooler months.
The new playground will be designed and built by Kompan, a Texas-based company. The $263,000 price tag will be funded by the Parks Impact Fee fund. Several council members were concerned about beginning a major project before the Parks Master Plan was complete, but in the end felt the park’s safety had to be the priority.
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It’s been talked about by local cities for years, but Eustis has finally stepped up. Seasoned skaters and novices alike will be thrilled to see a new skate park constructed in Lake County.
Work has begun on the approximately 9000 square-foot park in the city’s Sunset Island Park. The skate park will feature two distinct and challenging sections. A bowl on one side of the park will connect via a walkway to the other side which features a combination of ramps, grinding rails, stairs, and pads. The park is expected to be completed in September.
ABOVE: Bowl portion of skatepark
To fund the $500,000 project the City received a $100,000 grant from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program and the balance is funded by the City, including its Recreation Impact Fee funds.
ABOVE: Street-skating portion of park with rails, ramps and more.
The idea of a skate park first came to the City Commission from public input, including from a group of young skateboarders, about five or six years ago.
Upon the skate park’s completion, the city is planning to host a Lake County Skateboard Invitational Competition to showcase its new recreational amenity.
Sunset Island Skate Park will be located at 301 W. Ward Avenue in Eustis. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. Find out what's happening locally with just a tap on your phone by downloading the area's free mobile app. Free monthly issues of Mount Dora Buzz are available here.
Picnics, boating, swimming pools, and being on the opposite end of the calendar from the frigid bite of winter… what’s not to love about the summer season? However, as thermostats begin to rise this summer, so does the risk of serious heat-related illnesses and injuries. Read more
It's rapidly becoming a favorite season of the year. This year’s blueberry season kicked off the first week in April and is expected to continue through May.
The growing number of local u-pick farms currently has prices that range from $4 to $8 per pound for the sweet and nutritious treat. Eager blueberry lovers should pick to their heart’s content since blueberries are widely considered a ‘super food’ that’s low in calories and high in nutrients and antioxidants. Here's the list of local U-Pick blueberry farms and their current price per pound and u-pick hours:
Atwood Family Farm 25079 SE Hwy 450, Umatilla, 352-630-0145 $4 per pound u-pick, $5 per pound pre-picked. U-pick hours: Weekends 8:30-4. Weekdays as available.
Blue Bayou Farms (organic) 8222 CR 48, Yalaha, 352-267-5277 $5 per pound u-pick or $7 per pound pre-picked. U-pick Hours: 9-5pm daily, except Monday.
Far Reach Ranch Heavenly Blueberries 1255 South Dora Blvd., Tavares, 352-343-7389 $4 per pound u-pick, $5.50 per pound pre-picked. U-pick hours: Wed.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 10-4. Other offerings: A variety of blueberry jams, blueberry salsa and local honey.
King Grove Organic Farm 19741 CR 44A, Eustis, 352-589-2469 $8 per pound u-pick. U-pick hours are very limited, so call ahead.
Promise Farms 36777 CR 44A, Eustis, 352-408-1988 $5 per pound u-pick or $7 per pound pre-picked. U-pick hours: Mon.-Sat. 9-3. Closed on Sunday.
Sand Hill Blueberries 31614 Bottany Woods Dr., Eustis, 352-636-8204 $4 per pound u-pick or $6 per pound pre-picked. Other offerings: Picnic area, hamburgers and hotdogs on weekends, swings, horseshoes.
Due to weather, field and berry conditions, u-pick hours and pricing can change, so it's recommended pickers call the farm prior to visiting.
“Paddles up!” will be the cry heard across Lake Dora when the Central Florida Dragon Boat Festival gets underway on March 10.
Three categories of teams participate in the races that are watchable from the shore of Wooton Park. Teams of dragon boat enthusiasts that practice regularly and race often will compete against each other in one group, while community teams whose members have a wide range of experience, or none at all, compete separately.
Dragon boat racing began in ancient China and is a fast-growing water sport with more than 2 million race participants worldwide. Crews consist of 10 or 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson. The drummer provides the “steady beat of the dragon heart,” and crew members paddle in rhythm to the sound of the drum to ensure perfect synchronicity. The elongated boats are adorned with brightly painted dragon heads and tails.
The annual Tavares event is now in its 16th year and is free for spectators. The day’s festivities at Wooton Park begin with opening ceremonies at 8 a.m. followed by the start of the races, a car show, food and craft vendors and continual live entertainment in addition to the dragon boat races.
The area’s Rotary Club is the event’s sponsor and uses the proceeds from the teams’ registration, vendor fees and sponsorships to provide local students with scholarships.
Wooton Park is located in downtown Tavares at 100 E. Ruby Street.
When Byron Faudie and Tim Totten approached the Mount Dora Center for the Arts with an unusual proposal, their reputation as absurdists preceded them. The pair, known for signature events like Audio Game, Clue! Live Mystery Parties, the Escape Game in a Box, and the Amazing Race for Charity, pitched a temporary miniature golf course in downtown Mount Dora, with all the holes designed by local artists.
“We both love art and fundraising for non-profits, but we’re terrible golfers,” says Faudie. “So rather than skip another golf tournament, we decided to create one we’d actually want to play.”
Open play for the inaugural Pop-Up Art Golf course, which will be constructed on the tennis court in Donnelly Park will be Friday, March 9 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, March 10 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 11 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is five dollars per person.
Totten and Faudie, who together own the game company FunVenture, have already secured 9 holes for the course. Designs range from a recreation of the new Florida Hospital Waterman Emergency Room, as created by the hospital’s architect and contractor, to a hole created by local tiny-house builder Andrew Bennett. Artists from Mount Dora High School have submitted a design for a hole that reflects a local landmark, while another artist is busy creating a hole called “The Kitchen Sink.” The Pop-Up Art Golf course is a FunVenture project in close cooperation with the Mount Dora Center for the Arts and the City of Mount Dora Parks & Recreation Department. For more information or to enter the golf tournament, visit www.funventure.us ,