The City of Ocoee recently held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for Unity Park. The City also recognized and celebrated its 100-year “Town of Ocoee” anniversary.

The Town of Ocoee was recognized as a municipality by the Florida Legislature in 1923 and became the City of Ocoee in 1925. As part of the grand opening celebration, the West Oaks Library set up a StoryWalk along the Park’s walking path featuring the book “Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems” by Kate Coombs. Attendees were invited to stroll and enjoy reading in the outdoors.

Unity Park is the first of its kind in Ocoee. It provides a scenic environment for residents to enjoy while serving as a space to naturally treat and store stormwater runoff. The centerpiece of the Park is a naturalized creek that cleans stormwater before it flows into Starke Lake. The five-acre Park can store up to 4.1 million gallons of stormwater generated from the City’s downtown district, which covers more than 41 acres. A stream meanders along the Park’s south side and pools at three strategically placed weirs to promote the settling of large particles. The water is clarified before it continues its journey to Starke Lake.

The enhanced wetland in the center of the Park captures and treats stormwater runoff from the neighborhoods to the south and promotes the percolation of clean water into the soil. The large pond on the Park’s north side provides a place for rainwater to flow and collect away from the streets and downtown buildings. The Florida Stormwater Association (FSA) awarded Unity Park a 2023 Outstanding Achievement Award for innovative accomplishments and outstanding commitment to stormwater management practices benefitting the environment and the local citizenry.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the Park offers a boardwalk and walking path that circles the artificial wetland along a quarter-mile track that will eventually connect to the City’s Master Trail Plan. The Park has natural landscaping with 100% plants native to Florida. Native plants are beneficial as they are sustainable, save water and provide habitat for pollinators. Dozens of native trees cover the parkland, including slash pine, Florida flame red maple, American sweet gum, southern live oak and autumn gold bald cypress.

The name “Unity Park” represents the City’s efforts toward creating a welcoming and diverse community open to all cultures and ethnicities. 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.