At Explorations V Children’s Museum’s annual event, Night at the Museum, Board President, Joe Lauk, announced the Children’s Museum has been named the anchor institution at Bonnet Springs Park.
Bonnet Springs Park is a new development on 180 acres of land purchased from CSX by the nonprofit organization, Windsong Park, Inc. The Park is spearheaded by retired director of City of Lakeland Parks and Recreation, Bill Tinsley, long-time real estate developer, David Bunch, and Board President, Barney Barnett. The vision is to clean up forgotten forestry within walking distance to downtown Lakeland and create a “Central Park” in Central Florida.
“Great cities deserve great parks,” says Tinsley. “Lakeland is growing and we are building somewhere safe and exciting for the community to gather, play, and explore.”
A component that has always been part of the renderings for Bonnet Springs Park is an anchor institution. Tinsley and Bunch’s intent was to blend a cultural institution with expansive, high-quality outdoor space. In late Summer 2017, Bonnet Springs representatives started considering a short list of potential organizations to fill that role. It was quickly determined that Explorations V was not only ready for a change this size but also had the ability to make it happen.
The Children’s Museum’s long-time CEO had recently announced her retirement which meant the Board of Directors could do a leadership search to look for someone with specific skillsets. The Board found that person in Kerry Falwell who came from Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa. Falwell started at the Tampa museum just 6 months after it opened. She closed out the building’s capital campaign pledges and was on the leadership team that designed the operational structure of the new, urban family destination.
Falwell has been added to the Bonnet Springs Park advisory committee and will be closely involved in the design and implementation of the Park and Exploration V’s new facility.
“I can’t imagine a more natural partnership than Bonnet Springs and Explorations V. The “V” or five in our name stands for the five senses. Our founding families wanted to create a space for children to learn through their five senses. Being in a downtown building with limited access to the outdoors and nature learning has been a barrier to fully living up to that vision. This move will truly honor our commitment to sensory learning,” says Falwell.
Bonnet Springs is scheduled to open in late 2020. The size and scope of the new Explorations V facility will be part of the Park’s overall master plan which is in the design phase with architects, Sasaki, out of Boston. The two nonprofits will need to raise money jointly for a successful venture and there are no plans of merging the institutions. Explorations V will continue to operate the Kentucky Ave storefront for at least the next two years.
More information on Bonnet Springs Park can be found at bonnetspringspark.com.