In 1910, Winter Garden was surrounded by orange groves as far as the eye can see. Charles Mather-Smith and his wife Grace moved to Winter Garden from Chicago and discovered that the Orlando Country Club was a bit too tame for their taste. The couple founded the West Orange Country Club overlooking John’s Lake in 1915, complete with a two-story clubhouse and 18-hole golf course. For ten years, legislators, judges, lawyers, politicians and the well-to- do came and went through the arched entrance gate, which still stands today as a registered historic landmark.
The club closed in 1924 due to three years of heavy rain that caused flood damage to the golf course and surrounding area. Charles Mann Tucker purchased the land in 1941 to raise cattle and grow citrus, which he called Tucker and Son Ranch.
In 2011, the City of Winter Garden purchased the 209-acre property from the Tucker family and obtained a state grant to preserve and develop the property as a legacy park. The property will be used as a park allowing primitive camping, a canoe/kayak launch, walking trails, gathering space and more.
A 16-acre state-of-the-art working farm will be developed, complete with a community and teaching farm, modern greenhouse, retail store, commercial kitchen, and cold storage. The farm will be a showcase for cutting edge farming technology utilizing permaculture practices along with the establishment of a sustainable food hub to serve the region. All the food grown at Tucker Ranch will be sold to local food outlets and schools, and produce will be sold at the Winter Garden Farmers Market. The city is currently working on developing the farm and restoring native vegetation.
So dust off your hiking boots and get your kayaks ready - Phase 1 is set to open to the public in early 2017.