The recent opening of Victory Pointe in Clermont is only the beginning of an economic development boom for the city.
Victory Pointe is considered the linchpin to the success of the city’s $30 million master plan. The innovative stormwater system and 24th city park debuted to rave reviews from 400 visitors during a grand opening ceremony Friday, July 27, a news release states. Victory Pointe, located at the western end of Waterfront Park on Lake Minneola, also includes a walking trail, pier, 40-foot-tall observation tower, and an event venue for cultural and sporting activities.
The $10.2 million system, which is made up of a series of cascading ponds and lush, water-friendly landscaping, will treat most of the runoff from the western side of downtown Clermont and the waterfront. Of the final estimated cost, more than $4 million was reimbursed through grants.
When it rains, water now will be diverted to the Victory Pointe park, where it will be filtered before entering Lake Minneola. Before the park opened, property owners had to sacrifice part of their land for retention areas. Now, the need for retention ponds has been eliminated, and property owners in western downtown and the waterfront area have gained about 15 percent more property for development.
The importance to economic development for Clermont and the region already is being realized with high-end condominiums on the books next door to Victory Pointe and several popular restaurants either open or in progress within walking distance, the release states.
Next up, the city will focus on Legacy Loop, a spur off the Coast-to-Coast Trail that will go through downtown Clermont, and the Meet Us in the Middle Plaza, which will mark the center of the state’s much-anticipated trail that will run from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
Late Tuesday, the city encountered some problems near Victory Pointe. Several washouts, likely caused by recent heavy rains, appeared between the South Lake Trail and Lake Minneola at the north end of Victory Pointe, a news release states. City staff members were expected to meet Wednesday with experts who examine the basin near the trail washouts whenever there is a quarter-inch or more of rain. The experts will determine how the washouts occurred and how to restore the area.
“Our lakes and trail are very important to the community, and we are committed to resolving this problem and protecting our waterways,” City Manager Darren Gray says in the release.
Lake Minneola is classified as “Outstanding Florida Water” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Waterways with that designation are considered worthy of special protection because of their natural attributes. The water quality of Lake Minneola is important for people because of its recreational use, among other reasons, and plants and animals also depend on the lake for consumption and habitat.
Victory Pointe removes many pollutants before the runoff enters the lake. The filtering system works like this:
Stage 1: Stormwater flows through an underground structure that removes trash, leaves, sediment, oil, grease, and toxins when it enters the deep pond underneath Minneola Avenue.
Stage 2: The deep pond stores the water, allowing time for natural processes to start the cleaning process.
Stage 3: The next pond (the first shallow pond) cleans the water even more as the plant life uses the nutrients from the water for growth.
Stage 4: The last shallow pond cleans the water more as the soils and plants absorb additional pollutants.
Stage 5: Some of the water is absorbed into the soil. Some of the successfully treated water may overflow, entering a meandering stream into Lake Minneola.
At the opening ceremony, Darren spoke about the journey of the Victory Pointe project, which started with a series of visioning sessions in 2013, shortly after he became city manager. Since then, the city has rebranded itself as the “Choice of Champions,” developed the award-winning master plan, and created a new gateway to downtown, the release states.
Among those who attended the ceremony were state Sen. Kelli Stargel, Lakeland; Lake County Commissioners Tim Sullivan, Sean Parks, Wendy Breeden, and Josh Blake; Lake County Manager Jeff Cole; St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Ann Shortelle; Groveland Mayor Dina Sweatt; Clermont Mayor Gail Ash; and City Council members Diane Travis, Tim Bates, Ray Goodgame, and Heidi Brishke.
The event was capped off with a performance that gave a nod to the past while also showing how the area will be used as an event venue in the future. The Cypress Gardens Water Skiers performed tricks and stunts on the lake for the crowd. The original members of the skiing troupe sometimes rehearsed their shows at Lake Minneola before presenting them at the theme park in Winter Haven.