Clermont officials are preparing to launch an elaborate $8.6 million effort to consolidate many of the downtown area's stormwater retention areas into one man-made pond that will be cleverly disguised as a park with waterfalls, observation towers, boardwalks and a meandering stream.

Clermont Director of Economic Development Shannon Schmidt said once Victory Pointe is completed, many of the areas now used at Waterfront Park for drainage will be filled in.

“That will free up lakefront land for other things,” said Schmidt.

According to James Kinzler, Clermont’s director of capital planning, grants and projects, Victory Pointe’s impact to the downtown area will be great.

He said the eco-friendly project, at its core, is a functional stormwater wetlands filter that will channel highly filtered, clean water out into Lake Minneola.

“But it’s really more than that. It’s an economic development tool for the western portion of the downtown waterfront corridor,” Kinzler added.

The economic impact of Victory Pointe has a lot to do with a spot on the bridge before Lake Hiawatha Preserve, considered the exact middle-point of the cross-Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail.

When the trail is fully connected, walking or biking from that point will take people 101 miles to the Atlantic Ocean one way and 101 miles to the Gulf of Mexico the other.

Kinzler said that middle point will act as a magnet for tourists from all over the world.

The area adjacent to the Clermont Boathouse is being reimagined into Triathlon Beach, a multi-use facility that will include start and finish lines for local triathlons, a pavilion for awards ceremonies and lots of green space for concerts, cultural events and more.

The Clermont Boathouse will remain across from Victory Pointe along Lake Minneola and any water events, including the many regattas and sailing events it supports, will utilize Triathlon Beach. The public boat ramp for motorized water vehicles will be moved

Officials are also looking to have the main trail branch off into the downtown district’s main hub to support the shops and restaurants located there.

“The whole facility will complement our position in the Coast-to-Coast trail system and the “Meet Us in the Middle” draw we are looking to build on,” Kinzler said.

On the flip side, Kinzler said funding for the project thus far, to the tune of more than $4 million, has been secured by way of federal, state and county grants focused on various aspects of the project, including land and water conservation, pollution reduction and tourism.

Kinzler said the goal is to have 70-80 percent of the project funded by grants that can be obtained annually and money from the city’s stormwater fund, which, unlike the general fund, will not affect property taxes.

The remainder of the project will be funded with help from the Department of Environmental Protection through a program that grants lines of credit to governments for infrastructure projects.

“It’s a tremendous program that allows governments to borrow money cheaply,” Kinzler said.

Kinzler said too much focus should not be placed on the project’s $8.6 million price tag but on what Clermont will gain in return.

He said with so much of the money coming from grants, the project is a substantially low-risk one.

“This will be a great project. There will be so much going on in the downtown area around Victory Pointe with the scope and diversity of the events and the people it will attract,” Kinzler said. “The final project amount may be a little intimidating, but hopefully, we’ll get it 70-80 percent grant funded and that will be the cherry on top.”

“We’ll get a good return on the little amount we have to put in.”

Once Victory Pointe breaks ground, the project is expected to take 12-18 months to complete.