The name, Unity Park, represents the efforts the city has made toward creating a welcoming and diverse community open to all cultures and ethnicities. Future plans include the installation of a memorial wall to remember and honor the African Americans who lived in Ocoee during the 1920 Election Day Massacre. The wall will list the names of the 263 black residents who were killed, injured, driven from their homes and had their property taken from them on November 2, 1920. The memorial wall will give residents and visitors an opportunity to reflect and remember the men, women and children who once called Ocoee home.
At the heart of downtown, the park will help improve the overall general well-being of the community by inviting people to take an outdoor stroll through an attractive green space. Accessible to the public via lighted boardwalk that circles the artificial wetland along a quarter mile track that will connect to the City of Ocoee’s Master Trail Plan, Unity Park provides benefits for both physical and mental health by reducing stress and feelings of depression and anxiety, as urban green spaces have been proven to do.
Embodying the beauty of Central Florida, the park has natural landscaping with 100 percent plants native to Florida. By imitating nature, the park provides a peaceful retreat for local wildlife while requiring less maintenance. The use of native plants is a practice in sustainability by reducing the need for excess watering and fertilization because they are already adapted to the local climate. This protects our aquifer from excess water depletion and our lakes from excess nutrients. Dozens of native trees cover the parkland including Slash Pine, Florida Red Maple, American Sweet Gum, Sothern Live Oak and Autumn Gold Bald Cypress. Find your favorite tree and take a break in its shade!
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The 5-acre park can store 12.6 acre-ft, or 4.1 million gallons, of stormwater from 41.7-acres of Ocoee’s downtown district. Divided into three distinct sections, the park will provide water quality enhancements for Starke Lake and help increase the City’s flood resiliency.
A stream meanders gracefully along the south side of the park, pooling at three strategically placed weirs to promote settling of large particulate matter such as dirt and dust as well as organic matter like sticks and leaves, clarifying the water before it continues its journey to Starke Lake.
An enhanced wetland in the center of the park captures floatables and treats stormwater runoff by removing nutrients from the water that promotes plant growth, including algae. The park was designed to remove 4.7-kg of nitrogen and 1.4-kg of phosphorus a year. This helps keep the City’s chain of lakes, Lake Starke, Lake Prima Vista, and Lake Olympia, clean, fighting the harmful algae blooms that have plagued the lakes. The presence of the enhanced wetland, and the reduction in algal blooms, leads to an increase in biodiversity in the area, improving the environmental health of Ocoee’s downtown, drawing wildlife enthusiasts, residents, and business into the City’s center.
The large pond on the north side is the dominating feature of the park and provides a place for rainwater to flow and collect away from the streets and buildings of downtown. If you look closely, you might be able to identify some stormwater structures that act as bubble-up or cascading features; these are in place in the event of a severe storm to allow water to safely overflow the pond and join the stream to the Lake to reduce the risk of flooding. The enhanced storage capacity of the park lowers the base flood elevation of the downtown drainage area by approximately 2-ft, reducing the risk of flood, property damage, and loss of life due to flood. The increased flood resiliency lowers the cost of flood insurance for downtown residents and business owners alike. With the floodplain lowered, and excess stormwater storage accounted for, more land is available for safe development by local retailers and restaurants to help create a more inviting downtown atmosphere.