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Victory Pointe Park

Donald Wishart

Director, Community Solutions Group

Biofiltration, Birds, City Streets, Downtown, Landscaping, Park, Pond, Stormwater, Wetland, Wildlife


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Donald Wishart


Victory Pointe Park Interview with Donald Wishart, PLA, GAI Consultants, Community Solutions Group


First, let’s talk about your experience with stormwater management projects. What benefits do these projects provide?

I’ve been practicing Landscape architecture for about 32 years, but it is within the last 8-10 years that we’ve started to take more innovative approach with stormwater management. Stormwater management used to be very a siloed practice, generally provided by the project civil engineer, but is now viewed as a more integrated, seamless idea within the overall project design. All projects deal with stormwater and somehow, we must direct it, store it, and convey it; a necessity on it on every project, especially in Florida. Now, it is becoming much more common place on every project to work more closely with the civil team to determine how we manage stormwater and how to weave it into the story of the project. Though redundant stormwater infrastructure systems will generally be needed, we try to think beyond it. We work closely with civil engineers on front-end in the conceptual design and development the project. Our Civil Engineers and Landscape Architects are working much more seamlessly and becoming much more advanced in how we think about this process. It’s still a constantly improving learning process.


What can you tell us about the planning and development process for Victory Pointe?

The genesis started with Clermont’s Downtown Master Plan provided by GAI and how Clermont would grow and prosper over time and how to draw more visitors to the core of their downtown and developing main street district. Before redevelopment, the project site consisted of low-quality wetlands choked with exotic and invasive species. The degraded wetlands were not contributing to the waterfront environment and were also becoming an eyesore. One of the goals of Victory Pointe Park was to attract visitors to stay and spend time in the downtown. Many residents and visitors were coming in and out this waterfront for big events but weren’t spending any time downtown.

The City of Clermont wanted to help their main street, W. Montrose Street, gain exposure and enhance economic activity downtown. Victory Pointe Park has provided a waterfront component to be used for events much closer to their downtown, resulting in encouraging visitors to stay longer and linger downtown. Now, downtown Clermont is thriving.

In the early concept, it was also recognized that the extension of Minneola Avenue via a park bridge would increase connectivity and increases walkability. Part of the park design also created a green streets design solution for Minneola Ave. that would lead to the park as part of a more innovative stormwater management strategy at a street level.

When looking at the wetland stages in the park design, it starts with stormwater from downtown that flows straight into Stage 1, the inundation stage. Then, it cascades through two other levels that are separate stages of a filter marsh system. These areas within the filter marsh system are heavily vegetated with native aquatics to aid filtration and pollutant uptake. Finally, a weir structure takes water from the filter marsh and into a small stream that feeds into Lake Minneola. At the arrival at the park, there is interpretative signage illustrating the wetland park system with the pond, inundation marsh, and filtration marsh. We also added an ADA accessible observation tower, which is great for birdwatching.


So now let’s think a bit about some challenges you may have encountered with this project or other similar projects. Perhaps issues that caused delays or unexpected increases in costs. What are some of the lessons learned you gained from this project?

With the site being a wetland, we did soil testing and discovered a lot of muck on the site. We ended up having to install very deep sheet-pile walls that separated the ponds due to the depth the muck conditions. The first pond was constructed deep enough to minimize unwanted vegetation growth. The other two were designed deliberately to be shallow so that the thick vegetation will help slow flow and filter runoff. The plan utilized many native plants that are very beneficial and efficient with uptake. These unforeseen issues muck depth added some cost to the project and a slight increase to the timeline.


Are there any other GSI projects that you would like to share with us?

Lake Beauty Park in Orlando located at the Orlando Health campus downtown. This project consisted of an existing pond, with very little access that was transformed into a walkable, accessible open space for the campus and adjacent neighborhoods. It is also one of the first green streets projects in Orlando. This project received the top award for sustainable design in 2013 given by the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.