The City of Casselberry’s new Citizen Academy will give residents a behind-the-scenes peek at what makes the town tick – all for free!
Even if you live within its borders, there’s likely a lot you don’t know about the City of Casselberry. Its vibrant art scene, for example, its tight-knit neighborhoods and good schools, its growing park system, and the city’s quest to eventually become the most bike and pedestrian friendly town in Central Florida.
To help residents and nonresidents alike discover everything Casselberry has to offer, the city is launching its first Citizen Academy this month. The free program will allow participants to learn about the nuts and bolts of what makes the city run, as well as where the city came from and where it is heading.
“We’ve got a lot of new families coming in right now who don’t know what resources we have,” says Emily Hanna, Casselberry’s development services manager. “We want to put a fun spin on the Citizen Academy. Our presenters are excited about bringing the community to the people.”
The Academy will be broken into six sessions over two months, touching on city planning, transportation, community health, parks and conservation, and police operations.
Topics will range in scope from the narrow, such as how building permits work, to the broad. One segment is titled Building the City’s Future.
Since looking to the future requires knowledge of the past, the first Citizen Academy session will delve into the city’s history, which includes a quirky twist of fate.
In 1925, Hibbard Casselberry, for whom the city was named, was visiting family in Winter Park with his wife, Mary Elizabeth. Mary somehow injured her arm, and as they waited for it to heal, Hibbard fell in love with the surrounding area, according to historian Jim Robison. Hibbard would go on to establish one of the world’s largest ferneries here.
During World War II, Casselberry moved away from fern growing and began producing bomb parachutes and hospital tent liners for American troops. As late as 1950, the city had only about 400 residents and one police car. Since then, the population has grown to approximately 30,000 people.
“For some people, Casselberry has a reputation as a drive-through city, not a place to stop and visit,” says Drew Taylor, a pastor who has lived in Casselberry for three years.
Drew was one of the first citizens to sign up for the Academy, and he is anxious to learn more about how the city operates and what great projects lie in store.
Another early signee, Andy Searles, feels the same way.
“This city has some great things happening, and I’m not sure everyone knows about them,” Andy says. “I want to hear more about them, myself.”
Another goal of the Citizen Academy is to help inspire new residents to serve on one of Casselberry’s many citizen boards and committees.
Planners of the Academy opted to steer away from dry lectures and toward fun interaction, says Christina Hyson, Casselberry’s city planner.
One highlight will be a mock planning and zoning board meeting, during which Academy participants will debate the pros and cons of allowing a new theme park to be built in the city.
In addition to learning about the city’s past and present, participants in the Academy will get a taste of what is envisioned for the future.
Last summer, city commissioners formally resolved to ensure that all future road projects in Casselberry are designed to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and those with disabilities. This is part of the city’s vigorous effort to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Casselberry’s ambitious goal, according to one planning document, is to become “the most walkable, rollable, and bikeable” city in Central Florida by 2040.
The Citizen Academy will begin on March 24 and continue through April 28, with a graduation ceremony planned for May 11.
To learn more about the Citizen Academy, or to sign up to participate at no charge, contact Christina Hyson at 407-262-7700, ext. 1108 or CHyson@Casselberry.org.
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