Healthy West Orange Trails Connection..
..Formed to Promote, Activate and Enhance Trail System in West Orange
Today we welcome guest blogger Barbara Giles of Bike/Walk Central Florida. Barbara originally sent this article for our spring Messenger, and somehow it fell through the cracks. Suffice to say, the content is worth sharing.
When cyclists think of West Orange County, the 22-mile mile signature West Orange Trail, which stretches from Apopka to the county’s western edge and beyond into Lake County, comes to mind. But a collaborative of local municipalities and health advocates have even grander plans. They want West Orange County to be the healthiest region in the nation, and they see connecting, enhancing and activating trails as the backbone to this plan.
Spearheading this work is the newly created Healthy West Orange Trails Connection (HWOTC). Consistent with the purpose of Healthy West Orange (Foundation for a Healthier West Orange or FHWO), HWOTC will, and now is, promoting, activating, and enhancing the trail system throughout West Orange. This will create more opportunities for physical activity, social engagement, prosperity and happiness.
The HWOTC 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.
“Trails are essential for the health and wellness of the community, now and into the future,” said Lesa Boettcher, the FHWO chief operating officer and HWOTC executive committee member. “The Foundation is dedicated to providing support for trail development, connections and engagement opportunities through the HWOTC.”
To fund the initiative, FHWO and HWOTC have been entrusted with $5.5M from the West Orange Healthcare District to support the mission. The HWOTC Steering Committee will determine the best use of the funds, accelerating the implementation of projects that support walking, cycling, and wellness activities within the communities while improving multi-modal safety. The $5.5M grant also serves as seed money to attract additional investments in the region’s trails and enhance current and future trail projects.
“With the Foundation’s grant plus additional funding or grants from other sources, West Orange can become one of the most trail-friendly regions in the nation,” said Boettcher.
In a show of support of the HWOTC, the Town of Oakland, the City of Ocoee, the City of Winter Garden and the Gotha Rural Settlement have passed resolutions of support of Healthy West Orange Trail Connection, and the resolutions are on an upcoming meeting agenda of the Town of Windermere. The supporting agencies are submitting letters of support and participation. The first official meeting of the HWOTC committee was held this month to begin prioritizing projects.
“The trail system has been a vital component of our City’s health and wellness,” said Jon C. Williams, city manager, City of Winter Garden. “We are excited to join the other partnering agencies in activating as well as expanding the trail system within Winter Garden and throughout West Orange County.”
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