Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, and Soil and Water Supervisor Eric Rollings, announced Friday afternoon that the city intends to buy Constitution Green Park in an attempt to save it’s cherished winding Oak Tree, estimated to be well over 100 years old.
“We rolled up our sleeves, looked at options to work with the Caruso family, that would not only save the park, but ensure the protection of one of Orlando’s largest and oldest trees” said Dyer in a joint announcement in downtown Orlando.
The low-lying tree, which winds around the property, sits in the heart of Sheehan’s District 4. The deal involves a land trade and disbursement of CRA funds, and must go through several committees before final approval.
“Fifty-one hundred concerned citizens wanted to save Constitution Green,” said Sheehan. “And it happened.”
“This is about a special place. A place where children and puppies play, and nervous couples propose,” she added. “It’s a part of all of us, now and forever.”
The announcement comes one month before voters go to the polls in the City of Orlando, and challengers to both Dyer and Sheehan were on hand. Sign wavers supporting businessman and veteran Paul Paulson stood across the street.
Medical student Sunshine Linda Grund, Dyer’s second challenger, was also at the event.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but I’m concerned with the wetlands behind the airport,” she said. “I was talking to Paul this morning. He asked, ‘Where is this money coming from?'”
A major talking point in the Orlando mayoral, District 4 and District 6 races has been the 17.7 percent property tax hike unanimously approved by the City Council last year. Incumbents argue that capped revenues on development during the recession led to the increase, but tax levels remain at 2009 levels.
“The timing was very suspect. 30 days before an election. Six million dollars after a 17.7 percent increase?” said talk show host Randy Ross, who is challenging Sheehan.
“Lightning can turn that tree into something else in a matter of moments. I hope it stays a park forever, because if that tree falls and we have to sell that property, it won’t make a lot of sense to taxpayers.”
Election day is November 3.