June 26, 2020
Winter Garden, Florida is about 14 miles west of Orlando on State Road 50 in western Orange County, Florida. Winter Garden's population is slightly more than 45,000.
One of the first things a new Floridian has to do is learn the whereabouts of the "winter" towns:
Winter Garden, Winter Park, Winter Haven and Winter Springs. I'll even mention Winter Beach over near Sebastian, but not many people remember it these days.
The first settlers came to the Winter Garden Florida area just before the Civil War in the 1850's. They established small farms along the south shore of Lake Apopka.
Winter Garden's economy depended largely on citrus and vegetable production. This economy was helped when the Orange Belt Railroad was completed and came through town.
By 1900, a small commercial district had popped up along Plant Street and residential neighborhoods began to appear on the side streets.
At one time, especially in the 1930's, Winter Garden's location on Lake Apopka made it a fisherman's paradise. Lake Apopka is the second largest lake in Florida, trailing only Lake Okeechobee in size.
Some of the best bass fishing in the United States was to be had in the clean waters of Lake Apopka. Winter Garden was the center of this fishing activity.
Huge agricultural operations along the northern shores of Lake Apopka resulted in toxic runoff into the lake and its glory days as a fishing paradise are lost in the distant past.
There are ongoing efforts to buy up the farms and improve the water quality of Lake Apopka. There has been some success with this effort, and we should all keep our fingers crossed.
There are still many historic buildings in Winter Garden, most of them dating back to the period from 1915 to 1940.
Many of the old railroad routes were combined into the West Orange Trail, a 22-mile long multi-use rail trail owned by Orange County.
The trail passes through downtown Oakland, Winter Garden, and Apopka. It is very popular with walkers, joggers and bicyclists.
Historic downtown Winter Garden contains an eclectic collection of restaurants,shops, cafes, a train depot that is now a museum, and a theater.
Brick paving, tree planters and benches make this a favorite
spot for locals and tourists to visit.
A few blocks north of downtown Plant Street are several public parks, a public swimming pool and community center.
This area also has a large city owned trailer park called Trailer City that opened in 1936 and is home to a couple of hundred happy people.