Award Finalist

Residents were enjoying Mill Lake Park in Orange City when it opened in 2018.

Tucked behind U.S. 17/92 in Orange City sits a slew of parks ready for residents and others to enjoy.

The Mill Lake Park Continuum is one of three finalists for the 2021 Great Places in Florida Award. It is competing against Jupiter Riverwalk and Reiter Park in Longwood for the title.

The Continuum “starts at Holly Avenue from Blue Springs Avenue to Graves Avenue,” said Danielle FitzPatrick, the city's public information coordinator. “Mill Lake had been a goal for the city for years.”

A half-mile stroll through Orange City’s historic district includes Eveylin Durant Robinson Playground, Colin’s Dream skate park, the Splash Pad and Mill Lake Park, which has either trails through the woods or along the sidewalk and continues down Holly Avenue with a gazebo surrounded by butterfly gardens.

Mayor Gary Blair, who resides near Mill Lake Park, is in his second term as mayor and has been on the City Council for a total of 19 years (1998-2005 and 2009 to present). He has been known to take that nearly one mile stroll or bicycle ride around Mill Lake at the park.

“Vote for Mill Lake,” Mayor Blair said. “Mill Lake Park and the surrounding area had been a dream for a long time, and now it’s here for our community to enjoy, so let’s celebrate by having it recognized, officially, as a great place – grab you phone and vote.”

Voting is open through Sept. 13 and can be done at https://florida.planning.org/community-outreach/great-places-florida/2021-great-places-florida-award/?cmp=form.

Ms. FitzPatrick said Becky Mendez, development services director, was the person who said the city should nominate for the award.

Ms. Mendez said the project started many years ago with the help of multiple agencies and multiple visions.

“It started as a storm water improvement project,” she said. “Since we were improving Mill Lake, we also did a recreational enhancement component. There were four or five different funding sources.”

Ms. Mendez said the first phase included dredging Mill Lake in 2018. During that time the city looked at utilities expansion in the area to promote redevelopment. Utility and sewer connections were completed in 2020.

Streetscaping was added to include street and other public parking spaces, benches, sidewalks and the medallion in the middle of Graves Avenue and Holly Street in front of City Hall, she said.

“It was a great infrastructure improvement,” Ms. Mendez said. “We needed those utilities, which will spur redevelopment of the corridor. You don’t see those pipes underground. There were multiple partners getting it accomplished.

“Everybody in the area and people from outside of the area have started to realize that we have this gem only 100 feet from 17/92. People are really starting to come in.”

The Great Places in Florida award is the APA Florida Chapter’s gold standard in terms of exemplifying a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement and a vision for tomorrow.

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