Downtown Winter Haven had been aesthetically stagnant for decades when in the 1980s the railroad pulled up its tracks and offered to sell to the highest bidder.
Fortunately for the town, then-Mayor Marlene Young learned of The Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit dedicated to creating and preserving public spaces, and engineered a deal in which the main downtown corridor would become property of the city and peripheral properties north and south would be sold to private landowners who would ultimately finance the transaction.
The big winners were the unborn future residents of Winter Haven who were always Mayor Young’s most important constituency.
This undertaking required cooperation among all the elements involved — the trust, the city and private parties willing to cover a portion of the capital expenditure, pending a recoup event. The result was the creation of what is now Central Park extending to the north of and beyond Lake Silver.