2024 All-America City – Wilton Manors, FL

Wilton Manors, also known as “The Island City” due to its miles of natural waterways, is an internationally renowned LGBTQ+ destination and community in Southeast Florida. With just over 11,000 residents, the city publicizes itself as a welcoming, inclusive, and diverse place—open to everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other label. Wilton Manors regularly partners with LGBTQ+ organizations and is home to the Pride Center at Equality Park, Broward County’s and South Florida’s premier gay and lesbian community center. 

Embracing the LGBTQ+ community may be what Wilton Manors is best known for, but it is not the community’s sole identity. Four distinct neighborhoods have been actively involved in the political process for years, with city officials regularly meeting with neighborhood representatives and strongly encouraging public participation to ensure residents have input and direction in shaping the vision for their city. Strong levels of public engagement, a welcoming culture, and a steadfast vision make Wilton Manors a tight-knit community. 

Wilton Manor’s Police Department Safe Place Program 

In response to the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and threats of violence nationwide, the Wilton Manors Police Department (WMPD) took proactive steps to ensure the safety and inclusivity of its community by launching the ‘Safe Place Program’ in October 2023. 

The program was established to create a network of safe havens for members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as any resident or visitor of Wilton Manors who may be victims of crime, harassment, or feel endangered. Participating establishments signal their commitment to safety by displaying the Safe Place decal, indicating it is a location where individuals can await police assistance free from immediate threat until officers arrive. Participating businesses receive training on how to provide a safe haven, communicate sensitively with victims, and contact WMPD for assistance.  

One of the key objectives of the Safe Place Program is to encourage the reporting of bias crimes and incidents. By providing a designated safe haven where victims can await police assistance without fear of immediate harm, the program aims to address concerns about underreporting and increase community trust in law enforcement.

Currently, 45 local businesses actively participate in the program, demonstrating a collective commitment to combating discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community.   

City of Wilton Manor’s Sustainability Program 

Wilton Manors faces significant challenges due to climate change and rising sea levels. Over the past century, sea levels in South Florida have risen by 8-10 inches, and projections suggest an acceleration due to global climate change, particularly impacting low-lying areas like Broward County. 

In response to these challenges, proactive measures and community engagement have been crucial. The city has committed substantial resources to reduce its carbon footprint and enhance resilience, recognizing the vulnerability of its island location surrounded by the Middle River and the Atlantic Ocean. A key sustainability effort is the Wilton Manors/Oakland Park Joint Climate Action Plan, a collaborative effort between neighboring municipalities to mitigate climate change impacts and enhance infrastructure resilience. The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1% annually until 2028 while improving community resilience without compromising business operations. 

Additionally, the city has undertaken a Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment, funded by the Resilient Florida Grant Program, to identify high-risk areas and vulnerable infrastructure. This assessment involved extensive data analysis and collaboration with a diverse steering committee of experts and community representatives.

These initiatives highlight Wilton Manors’ proactive approach to addressing climate change and sea level rise through sustainable policies, community engagement, and strategic planning to safeguard the city’s future against environmental impacts.  

Reclaiming our Main Street – Wilton Drive 

Wilton Manors, a small city encompassing just two square miles and surrounded by water, is bisected by Wilton Drive, a one-mile stretch of road. Over the past three decades, this area has evolved into an urban village, characterized by its thriving arts and entertainment scene. However, Wilton Drive faced significant challenges related to pedestrian safety, accessibility, and overall urban design. Wilton Drive was designated as a state-owned road, meaning it primarily catered to vehicular traffic, neglecting pedestrian and cyclist needs. 

In response, the City of Wilton Manors embarked on efforts to enhance safety and transform Wilton Drive into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. Although purchasing the road from the state was deemed cost-prohibitive, city officials pursued alternative solutions, inspired by the national concept of Complete Streets, emphasizing safety and accessibility for all users. 

The turning point came in 2015 when the City Manager seized an opportunity to partner with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) following a successful lane elimination project in a neighboring city. This collaboration, bolstered by federal funding, allowed for key improvements, including lane reductions, sidewalk expansions, and additional crosswalks. 

A crucial aspect of the project was extensive community engagement, involving over a dozen public meetings to gather feedback on landscaping and streetscape design, empowering residents and businesses to shape the project. 

The completion of the project in 2023 marked a milestone, significantly enhancing safety, accessibility, and aesthetic appeal along Wilton Drive. The transformation has created safer conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, stimulated economic activity, and contributed to public health and sustainability goals. 

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