Orlando is fortunate to have great world class public gathering places, often referred to as “venues”, The Dr. Phillips Center, The Amway Arena and the Camping World Stadium. Both public and private money goes into these facilities to support and promote them. In reality, there are 4 venues, the fourth being the regional Lake Eola Park. Unlike the “big 3”, Lake Eola Park has a far smaller budget. Ironically it is open every day, longer hours, hosts as many if not more than some of the other venues and most definitely handles more visitors annually than some of the other venues. Lake Eola Park is historically the most attended public space in the region. Sadly, the success of the park has put economic pressure on surrounding land by developers who want to capitalize on its success.
Many of you may recall the last attempt by developers to build a high rise on the east side of Lake Eola Park and the resulting resistance from the community. This activism is telling of how the Orlando region feels about the importance of Lake Eola Park. Public action resulted in the City of Orlando’s purchase and greenspace restoration of the east side of Lake Eola Park. However, recently there has been an attempt by out of state developers to encroach into the park on the southwest corner with a high rise tower.
Several months ago a few women approached Orange Preservation Trust, OPT, with the idea of preserving available greenspace around Lake Eola Park. While most people think of historic preservation as the built environment it also includes park space and landscapes. OPT agreed that their idea of restoring property to its historic greenspace state is definitely in line with the goals of preservation.
Impressively, Lynn Long and Eugenia Sefcik founded Orlando Land Trust in a matter of months. Being Orlando natives from several generations back motivated a group of supporters to join the board of Orlando Land Trust upon their request. What is interesting of the composition of their board is that it not only includes old Orlando families but “newcomers” as well. The National Trust for Public Land will act as the local land trust’s agent and facilitate the $3.5 million transaction until their non-profit status is completed. What follows will be the fund raising to complete the sale and then deed transfer to the City of Orlando.
What can you do to help you might ask? Check out their website, watch for upcoming events, become a volunteer and most importantly be come a donor! Share their web page with your local as well as out of state Orlandoans who share the passion to grow back Lake Eola Park. Go to www.orlandolandtrust.org
Let’s join these “little old ladies” and show them and civic leaders that Orlando is with them!