Tavares Ecological Park is open

Managing stormwater is a difficult aspect of land development. Stormwater management systems are hidden out of sight and expected to do their job without being seen or heard. 

However, Tavares came up with a different approach.. City leaders and officials embraced stormwater management by incorporating it into a beautification project. 

Tavares Ecological Park, located downtown, is an eight-acre walkable park with five small retention ponds that filter out stormwater pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus before water is discharged into Lake Dora. Paved trails and wooden bridges that lead around and over the retention ponds are designed to attract visitors to the park. 

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Jan. 11, City Administrator John Drury touted the environmental benefits of the stormwater park, the first of its kind in Florida.  

“When I first started working in Tavares, I would walk down to Lake Dora and couldn’t see the bottom of the lake,” he says. “Now, I can see the bottom of Lake Dora. And as an added bonus, the park has improved the downtown area aesthetically.”

A large transmission pipe replaces 80-year-old clay stormwater pipes that John says were “cracked and broken” and discharged contaminated water directly into Lake Dora. The transmission pipe sends stormwater into the park’s ponds that contain bee mats, or floating islands filled with plants that filter out pollutants. 

Other city leaders who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony were equally excited. 

“This is an awesome eco park that provides a wonderful lakefront venue and a state-of-the-art stormwater treatment system,” says Phillip Clark, director of utilities for Tavares. “The park connects the west side of downtown to the east side of downtown, making it more convenient for pedestrians to enjoy our beautiful lake views, as well as all the wonderful businesses located downtown.”