The Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA Florida) named the Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades as the winner of the 10th Annual Great Places in Florida People's Choice Award. This prestigious accolade recognizes exceptional places in the Sunshine State that embody a true sense of community, cultural and historical significance, forward-thinking vision, and community involvement. The award's theme for this year, "Great Resilient Places," honors locations with resilient planning elements.
Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades stood out among the finalists, which included The Bay (City of Sarasota) and Downtown St. Augustine. This 365-acre water impoundment area features nature trails, pathways, and wetland/upland areas, created through a partnership between the South Florida Water Management District and the Village of Wellington. It serves as a critical rainwater filtration and cleansing system before it flows into the Everglades.
APA Florida President Whit Blanton, FAICP, praised the Wellington Environmental Preserve, stating, "As Florida continues to grow at a rapid pace, we need more communities like the Village of Wellington to think ahead and be innovative when protecting one of our state's greatest assets, The Everglades, while providing a space of health and recreation for its residents." "Named after the staunch Everglades defender, it is fitting that such a remarkable place earned this award," said Blanton.
Looking forward, Wellington's Village Manager, Jim Barnes, expressed his pride in the accomplishment, saying, "Wellington is honored to receive the 2023 Great Places in Florida People's Choice Award. This recognition reaffirms our commitment to preserving the natural beauty of our region while providing valuable recreational spaces for our residents. We are excited to announce that great things are on the horizon for the Wellington Environmental Preserve as we begin the process of incorporating the Moncada parcel."
In December 2021, Wellington, acquired the "Moncada parcel," a 45-acre site adjacent to the Wellington Environmental Preserve. This acquisition expands the Preserve and Habitat to 410 acres and offers an estimated additional 30 million gallons of offline storage, providing significant regional benefits. The Moncada parcel acquisition represents a significant addition to a major stormwater project initiated with the 1994 Everglades Forever Act (EFA) as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
To learn more about the 2023 Great Places in Florida People's Choice Award and explore past winners, visit the APA Florida website at florida.planning.org/greatplaces.