The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission recently announced the winners of its 41st annual Planning & Design Awards presented by TECO with two local projects honored by the panel of judges. Created to inspire and promote good practices that turn challenges which come with growth into opportunities for the Cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and unincorporated Hillsborough County, the Planning Commission’s event, held on October 18 at the Shanna & Bryan Glazer Jewish Community Center, was a celebration dedicated to excellence in planning and design.
The panel of judges included Silvia Vargas, Jennifer Codo-Salisbury and Dennis Smith, all highly distinguished AICP-certified planners from outside of Hillsborough County. You can find the full press release, including the list of winners, photos and more information on each of the judges, by visiting https://planhillsborough.org/pda.
Praised by judges for the strategic focus and applauded for recognition of the need to revisit the plan often to ensure implementation continues, The Wimauma Downtown Revitalization Action Plan won the Award of Outstanding Contribution to the Community in the Planning category.
Wimauma, founded in 1902 along a railroad route, still has agriculture representing the main source of income. Family-owned taquerias and small businesses line the main road through this diverse community. Experiencing significant change over recent years, its current population of 16,000 is expected to double over the next two decades.
In 2007, Hillsborough County worked with residents and community partners to create the initial Wimauma Community Plan. The plan then went through an extensive update process a decade later due to rapidly changing demographics with residents and stakeholders providing further input. In 2020, the updated plan became a cornerstone vision codified within the Comprehensive Plan’s Livable Communities Element in the county’s Land Development Code.
In 2022, the Downtown Revitalization Action Plan implemented the Community Plan and strategically laid out the foundational sequence of specific steps with timelines attainable to complete. Sparked by the action plan, the county commission allocated more than $100 million towards capital projects. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will be utilizing a Complete Streets concept for Wimauma’s main thoroughfare with the Hillsborough County Public School District constructing new schools. A county park with community center and regional library will also be included.
“The action plan is a well-designed, easy-to-read guide that addresses a growing community while respecting the area’s history and existing businesses and residents,” said Codo-Salisbury. “The plan strategically focuses on priorities of safety, traditional small-town character, clustered housing, preservation of native habitats, recreational opportunities and developing commercial opportunities. A key aspect of these successful planning and implementation efforts included meaningful public engagement throughout the process.”
Please visit https://planhillsborough.org/wimauma-village-plan for more information.
Opened in November 2022, Pebble Park, located at 9955 Riverview Dr. in Riverview, won the Awards of Excellence in the Environmental & Entertainment category for prioritizing the need for wetlands to serve the community and protecting imperiled habitats amidst development in the area as well as acknowledging the local history of the site as depicted through art expression.
At only 27 acres, the nature-based conservation park formerly owned by the Mosaic Company borders the Alafia River and offers accessible walking trails, shelters, restrooms and a river overlook. These amenities result in opportunities for the public to view wildlife, gather socially and connect with nature. Pebble Park’s success has shown that small parcels of land should not be overlooked as opportunities for passive recreation and environmental conservation.
A sculpture named ‘Sovereign’ welcomes visitors at the trail entrance paying tribute to the Seminoles’ national independence. Sovereign reflects a Seminole woman in traditional, though modernized, Native American dress.
The on-leash dog-friendly park features a quarter-mile paved loop-walking trail wandering through a sandhill community in addition to a half-mile natural surface hiking trail. It also includes three large pavilions with picnic tables and two native planted areas with a pollinator garden providing ecosystem services such as aquifer recharge, flood protection and air quality enhancements.
Keep in mind that November starts Hillsborough Counties 2023-24 five-month Hiking Spree running through March 31, 2024. This year’s Hiking Spree will feature new trails, new merchandise and limited-edition rewards. Visit www.hcflgov.net/hikingspree to see the trail list and discover a new path.