One of the programs I developed to increase neighborhood engagement, decrease crime, and improve property values is the District 2 Corridor of the Year Contest. Four teams competed for the 2023 calendar year: Clarcona-Ocoee, Lockhart, Southern Apopka, and Wekiwa Springs. They entered these streets respectively: Clarcona-Ocoee Rd, Eden Park Rd, Apopka Blvd, and Votaw Road.
The beginning of the year focused on monthly clean-ups and engaging the HOA leaders. The groups took a sabbatical during the summer and returned to weekly clean-ups during September and October. In the final week, I saw the top two scoring teams daily volunteering. There was significant engagement throughout the year by three of the four teams.
The volunteer work varied depending on the needs of the corridor. Several corridors needed weekly trash and snipe sign removal. Most of the corridors needed wall and sidewalk pressure washing, repair, and painting. Landscape beds often needed fresh plantings and mulch. Trees and hedges required trimming up and down to adhere to law enforcement best practices. Every team managed to successfully cut their grass and pick up trash for perfect scores from the judges. The winning team even hand-painted entranceway signs to spruce them up and look their best.
The winning team also earned significantly higher engagement scores for every neighborhood, hosting and recruiting people from the neighborhood to clean up their own front entranceways. They also had whiter sidewalks and more entranceways, showing improvement. One team went from last place to second place in the final week due to two husband and wife teams working non-stop each and every day. Another team, unfortunately, went from first place to last place due to generally unresponsive HOA board members. Next year, we hope to start the year with responsive board members on all corridors and be able to utilize volunteers to clean up individual properties of the elderly and infirm. Time will tell if this is possible. Too many HOA leaders have been either too busy or disinterested in collaborating with other HOA leaders along their corridors. I am not deterred from trying to engage more leaders.
Drum roll, please. The winner of the 2023 District 2 Corridor of the Year Contest is the team from Rosemont and North Pine Hills, now known as the Clarcona-Ocoee Team. Special thanks to the following leaders who participated monthly throughout the year to improve their community: Mateo Schule, Sandy Miller, Cara and Ross Blanco, Patricia Rumph, Ann-Hill Mitchell and her friend Sharon, Vickie Vargo, Daryl Davis, Rob Lutz, and Ken Honor. Dozens of other volunteers worked at least one morning clean-up. The winning neighborhoods include Huntley Park, Pleasant Oaks, Windsong Estates, Clarcona Cove, Quail Ridge, Regency Park, Vista Hills, Chatham Woods, and Long Lake Hills. Also being judged were four segments along the route of individual homes and businesses.
The winning team has or will receive congratulatory signage, neighborhood pole banners, two street benches, one utility box painted with an art installation, advocacy for transportation improvements, and technical assistance for an AARP grant for roadway art installations or exercise equipment along the Coast-2-Coast Trail.
The best news is that the group now has sufficient participation to create a non-profit organization to offer community-building events. Their initial ideas include a monthly farmers market, Easter, Halloween, and Holiday events at the open field near Clarcona-Ocoee and Long roads. My office and I will provide hands-on assistance until the group is well established to manage them independently. I am also stepping back from my most established groups, Lockhart and Wekiwa Springs, to focus on truly getting a strong Apopka team off the ground. These groups are strong and doing exemplary work now.
Again, congratulations to Team Clarcona Ocoee from the Rosemont and North Pine Hills areas of District 2. If you wish to join a team to compete next year, please contact my office at District2@ocfl.net.