At the beginning of 2022, the Foundation for a Healthier West Orange (FHWO) and Healthy West Orange Trails Connection (HWOTC) were entrusted with a grant to promote, activate, and enhance the trail system throughout west Orange County.
We’re proud to share that in just one year, the HWOTC has prioritized a number of safety and beautification initiatives that encourage physical activity and social engagement along the trail. We recently joined with our partners to celebrate this one year milestone, and share some of the projects implemented by one of the largest grassroots coalitions for trail activation and development in the Central Florida region.
Over the past year, the HWOTC has:
- Developed a Safety Working Group that used a survey of more than 500 respondents to perform a safety audit of a portion of the West Orange Trail, in partnership with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Transportation. Trail safety audits will result in targeted efforts to improve trail safety throughout west Orange County, including additional audits in 2023.
- Implemented two projects focused on enhancing the natural landscapes that are unique to west Orange County. This included planting seven live oak trees and thirty fire bushes along the trail on Hennis Road, and planting 100 confederate jasmine along West Road. These efforts were supported by the Bloom and Grow Garden Society, Orange County Parks and Recreation, the City of Winter Garden, and the Friends of Lake Apopka (“FOLA”).
- Started the creation of an online trail events map that will allow residents to search for and explore events on and around the West Orange Trail. A working beta version is expected to be released at the Take Over the Trails Day event.
- Laid the groundwork for design guidelines that help future projects developed along the trail follow best practices to ensure the trails remain safe, comfortable, attractive, and accessible.
“Our trails and the multiple connections to our trails in West Orange County provide the core community foundation for improving, enhancing, and maintaining our residents’ health and wellness,” said Kurt Ardaman, HWOTC executive committee member. “HWOTC and FHWO are our community stewards for making West Orange County the healthiest community in the nation.”
HWOTC was developed to promote, activate, and enhance the trail system throughout west Orange County. The steering committee includes the Town of Oakland, the City of Ocoee, the Town of Windermere, the City of Winter Garden, Gotha Rural Settlement, the West Orange Healthcare District (WOHD), and the FHWO. Supporting agencies include Orange County, the Florida Department of Transportation, MetroPlan Orlando, Florida Department of Health – Orange County, West Orange Chamber of Commerce, Bike/Walk Central Florida and the City of Apopka among others.
“We are incredibly excited to be a part of the Healthy West Orange Trails Connection to help foster relationships and build active and healthy supportive lifestyles in west Orange County,” said Emily Hanna, Executive Director of BWCF. “We want to build a world where everyone of every ability can safely walk, bike or roll through the trails and streets in our communities.”