Wilton Manors, just outside of Oakland Park is known as the Island City. If you have not been there yet, then you really should go! Its main street corridor, Wilton Drive, is lined with a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars, many neighborhood favorites.
Although the City was incorporated into a city in 1953, it still has a small-town vibe. Many folks know each other and it is a close-knit community. Outside of all this Wilton Manors is also known for its inclusivity. Many of the local businesses are owned by members of the LQBTQ community.
To celebrate the City’s inclusivity, the former late Mayor Justin Flippen conceived an initiative to paint the City with a message that symbolized that “Love Wins”. Unfortunately, the City unexpectedly lost Mayor Flippen on February 25, 2020, as he suffered a brain aneurysm on his way to a City Commission meeting.
Recently, Commissioner Chris Caputo posted on social media that “The City of Wilton Manors just got a little brighter and better”, since painting had started on the bridge that enters City symbolizing the late Mayor’s vision of a “Love Wins” message.
I reached out to Commissioner Chris Caputo from the City to get some backstory on this initiative. He kindly connected me to the City Manager, Leigh Ann Henderson. Ms. Henderson mentioned that the late Mayor Flippen’s intention with the bridge was that “the bridge would symbolize a connection between the cities of Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors and represent the inclusivity and welcoming nature of our city.”
Ms. Henderson cited that talks of this project started in early 2020 where the Wilton Manors City Commission voted to submit the required permit documentation to the Florida Department of Transportation since the project would be on a State Road.
It most certainly took a village to bring to fruition this initiative. Local business owners and members of the community contributed in their way to complete this project. This included local artists Claudia Castillo and Meghan Pearson, who created the design for the bridge.
Painting and Coating manufacturer, Sherwin-Williams donated the primer and some of the paint for the project. The city contracted with a professional painter to pressure clean and prep the bridge for panting. The project was completed in about two days.
To experience the bridge and the love that exudes from its meaning, drive, walk, run, cycle or skate south on Wilton Drive. As you approach the bridge that connects it to Fort Lauderdale you will see the love. Take pictures and don’t forget to share them on social media so that others may experience the love too.
Maria Scudella-Beltran was born and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey, right outside of New York City. She moved to South Florida in 2004 and graduated from Florida International University with a bachelors’ degree in Marketing and Communications.
In 2010, she purchased her first home in the North Andrews Gardens area in Oakland Park. After several years of working in the retail industry, Maria took on a part-time internship at a marketing agency and continued her education through Walden University where she earned her Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications.
Currently, she works in Marketing and during her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and traveling.