WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — A new park in Winter Garden is being called a cutting-edge concept to help residents cultivate true wellness.

What You Need To Know

  • Winter Garden is creating a park designed to encourage healthy living

  • The park is on the former Tucker Ranch property

  • The last owner donated the property so it would not be developed

  • The park will feature an outdoor kitchen and community garden

Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer has been working on Tucker Ranch Wellness Park for eight years.

The property, which spans nearly 200 acres, was donated to the city by the last owner of the ranch, specifically so it wouldn’t be developed.

“Mrs. Tucker wanted to save this, which is just fantastic,” Bollhoefer said. “Without her, none of this would’ve ever happened. She was determined she wanted to preserve this. She came to the city. We thought it was a great idea, so knowing this is preserved for people in perpetuity is great because slowly but surely in Central Florida, we’re losing all this green space.” 

But Bollhoefer and other city leaders had an idea to turn the park into something truly special for their community.

“Then we came up with the idea to do a health and wellness park because it’s so needed out here in West Orange County, and it came to fruition,” Bollhoefer said. “But it’s been a lot of work. But it’ll be an asset for this community for many years – and not just Winter Garden, but for all of West Orange County.” 

Right now, the park consists mainly of a large playground and nature trails, but Bollhoefer said officials expect the rest of the features to be completed by the end of 2022, considering the pace at which they are working. 

City leaders have raised more than $7 million and will need millions more, but Bollhoefer said it’s worth what they’re planning to build.

“It’s going to have a kitchen to teach people how to cook healthy food, 1-acre greenhouse to grow organic foods,” he said. “It’s gonna have all different sorts of exercise equipment, walking paths, walking meditation. We’ll actually work with physicians and hospitals when they have people with health issues, where they can actually write them a prescription to come out to this park.”

Bollhoefer said the city has worked with groups like the Mental Health Association of Central Florida and the Florida diabetes and heart associations to make sure the park would have every tool people need to live a healthier lifestyle.

But the project almost stalled out when the Department of Transportation wanted to expand the Turnpike, which would’ve eaten up a lot of the land for the park.

Bollhoefer said the community worked to ensure that would not happen.

“We had a 150 people show up,” he said. “They were all well-behaved. Everyone did a really good job. There was no personal attacks, and afterward, the DOT decided, because of the community opposition, to go ahead and bypass and choose the no-build option there.” 

That kind of community support gives Bollhoefer hope that the park will give people in Winter Garden years of opportunities for better health and wellness.

“And I think it’s really guaranteed that this park will be a major success,” he said.