Blinky was an unusually friendly one-eyed gator who won the hearts of Lakeland in the 1970s. Occasionally Blinky would take a short stroll in the downtown area, but would return to regally lie on the concrete ramp that reached toward the center of Lake Mirror. Mecha-Blinky, made of mechanical junk, now sits in one of his favorite sunning spots on Lake Mirror, and a traditional Blinky statue sits in the town’s outdoor kiddie splash pad at Barnett Family Park.
With a goal of becoming a community asset, Bonnet Springs Park (BSP) will welcome visitors of all ages and backgrounds to a wide variety of opportunities to support physical and social equity. The planning and design of the park’s play areas are one of the many elements key in creating an active social hub.
Happy Birthday Bonnet Springs Park! We find ourselves at the third anniversary of ownership of the Bonnet Springs Park property (formerly the historic Lakeland Railyards), purchased in December 2015. The fear of opportunities lost coupled with the belief that a great park is a quality of life necessity for current and future generations was motivation for Carol and Barney Barnett to support the concepts for use of this land.
Bonnet Springs Park Located in an Opportunity Zone The recently passed Tax Reform Act includes a potential tax break for investors, resulting in deferral of capital gains taxes on the sale of an asset if located in a qualified Opportunity Zone. The intent is to encourage investments in distressed communities. Qualified Opportunity Zones are low-income communities nominated by the governor. An area in west Lakeland, which includes Bonnet Springs Park, has been nominated by Governor Scott.
Building Sustainably at Bonnet Springs Park At the core of Bonnet Springs Park’s mission is to create a resilient ecological gem for the Lakeland community. Beyond healing the polluted soils and waterways, the new park structures will support efficient and responsible park operations long into the future. The four major buildings in the park will operate as primary income generators and will likewise be the more significant consumers of energy.
Bonnet Springs Park has its wings and is soaring toward opening in late 2020. Land clearing and testing are obvious on the 180-acre site, but the beehive of activity is occurring in the labs and workrooms of about 20 consultants and planners. They are plotting answers to everything from acoustics to zero footprints (that’s A to Z and all between), all intended to ensure that this park for everyone touches all the bases to become the great park envisioned. An important element of its early success is community engagement.
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.