August 2018 Newsletter


Bill Tinsley

August has been an extremely busy month of engagement. We have held focus group meetings and tours, yielding new and exciting information to support our mission. Focus on food service, public art, solar energy, and educational programming have been validated through a wonderful collection of potential volunteers and supporters who share our vision for the park.

Kim Elmhorst is leading efforts as our community liaison to form the necessary structure to begin to formally engage the hundreds of potential volunteers and supporters who are being identified. A recent meeting and tour with Paula Dockery to pick her brain regarding the process used to engage and support Friends of Colt Creek State Park moved us much closer to understanding what needs to be done.

FDOT planners have proposed a traffic light and intersection at the Northwest corner of the property allowing direct vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle access from Memorial Blvd.
The additional clearing of undesirable vegetation and debris from the site with a focus on the spring has yielded a new look at the future park elements and particularly the requirements for stabilization of Bonnet Springs Valley. Surveyors and test drilling current are active on the former rail site doing an additional 132 soil tests in anticipation of remediation to start as early as September.


Kerry Falwell

Children’s museums are the fastest growing cultural facility in the United States. It makes sense because they are playful conduits for diverse paths – science centers, planetariums, art museums, symphony centers, makerspaces, and so much more. On May 19, Explorations V Children’s Museum announced it will move its operation to be the anchor institution at Bonnet Springs Park and the Museum team has been full steam ahead ever since.

Explorations V Children’s Museum started the work of building a museum to serve Central Florida families for the next 30 years and beyond. Board members from the past 28 years of leadership, including founding families who incorporated and built the first storefront came together at Bonnet Spring Park to tour the grounds and meet with current staff. From here, two think tanks of stakeholders will write an initial vision that will be vetted and discussed in community listening sessions.

“The new children’s museum design will be led by the community. We want to be a resource for families and a jewel for Central Florida. That will only happen if we listen to you first and continually check in along the way,” said Kerry Falwell, Executive Director.

The current timeline includes taking Fall 2018 to identify a master planning firm and continue collecting community feedback. A first look at a museum concept is likely to be out in early 2019. Updates will be posted on and the Museum’s Facebook page.


Sasaki Design Team

Unless you are a long-time resident of Lakeland, you might be surprised to learn that between the 1910’s and 1950’s, a large portion of the site of the future Bonnet Springs park was one of the most important railroad centers in Florida. The Lakeland Railyard as it was known played a vital role in moving, storing, and repairing the coal-powered locomotives that fueled the region’s economy. The locomotives transported citrus and phosphorus to cities all along the East Coast. At one point, the Lakeland Railyard was the largest employer in the city – employing between 500 to 600 people!

Today, as we prepare to transform this landscape into Bonnet Springs Park, we must also address the less positive aspects of the site’s industrial legacy. Sasaki’s design for Bonnet Springs Park includes sculpting the former railyard site from a flat and barren expanse into an undulating series of hills and depressions that block ambient noise, direct breezes, and create a sense of discovery. This approach is both imaginative and practical, since the hills provide a safe and economical way to cover existing contaminated soil that contains high levels of arsenic – a byproduct of coal ash and certain wood preservatives commonly used along rail corridors. The project is also enrolled in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Voluntary Cleanup Tax Credit program, which is designed to encourage land owners to remediate sites that are considered “brownfields” due to the presence of contaminants.

As you drive along George Jenkins this summer you might see crews out on site collecting soil samples that will help fine-tune the topographic design and remediation approach. Once the testing is completed earth moving equipment will start sculpting the land to make it safe for public enjoyment. We are excited to see the next chapter in the site’s history filled with people for generations to come!


The vision for Bonnet Springs Park continues to grow in the hearts of our community. A very critical consultant in any design and construction project in Florida is the geotechnical component. That is especially true on the diverse terrain that is the future site for the park. There are many difficult challenges when drilling and exploring the site to discover its capabilities to support the aggressive park design over the 160 acre site. Working closely with Sasaki, Imperial Testing and Engineering President Al McGhin is providing a full range of services which include drilling at designated locations, testing soil profiles and characteristics and providing full exploratory services required to make informed design decisions. Because Al believes in the game-changing impacts this park will have on Lakeland, Al has donated his company’s geotechnical services in honor of a long-time friend and supporter of the City, John Rodda. Thank you Al for giving back to Lakeland in a way that will help this park not only happen, but be sustainable.

A special salute to: Al McGhin, President, Imperial Testing and Engineering, Inc.

Imperial Testing and Engineering, Inc. (Imperial) is an Environmental/Geotechnical Consulting, Engineering and Testing firm serving Central Florida since 1977. Imperial was founded with a focus on providing timely and cost-effective services, while adhering to high standards of technical and professional excellence. They have developed a solid reputation with clients and regulatory agencies alike. Their investigative and problem-solving approach leads to the completion of projects on schedule and within budget.


Sasaki Design Team