Lakeland’s Explorations V Children’s Museum to join Bonnet Springs Park as ‘anchor institution’

LAKELAND — Bonnet Springs Park organizers selected Lakeland’s Explorations V Children’s Museum to be the central cultural and scientific partner for the planned, 180-acre park project.

Being located within that park land will benefit the museum and its mission, the museum’s executive director, Kerry Falwell said.

“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,” Falwell said.

Bonnet Springs is calling Explorations V its “anchor” institution.

“To us, (anchor) means that we’re right in the center of the plans, so it’s really a natural place for families to come and explore and learn and thrive together,” Falwell told The Ledger. “We’re really anchoring the park as a destination.”

Explorations V will move from its downtown Lakeland location along Munn Park, but plans to continue operating at its current spot at 109 N. Kentucky Ave. for at least the next two years, Falwell said.

The museum will hold a fundraising campaign to raise the money for the move. Those plans should be clearer by fall, Falwell said. The museum will compare similar partnerships and park museum models from across the country for ideas, and to determine how much money it will take.

Explorations V Board President Joe Lauk announced the partnership at the museum’s annual “Night at the Museum” event Saturday.

It’s a big move for the museum, Falwell said, but she said she is confident in the organization’s ability to change.
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“People wondered if we would be able to fill Kress Building,” she said. “Not only have we done it, we’ve done it really well. … Being in a historic building and in a city block, there’s missed opportunities for engaging kids. By building a building intended to be a children’s museum in mind, and having access to almost 200 acres of (outdoor) space, we’ll be able to serve children and families in a much more meaningful way.”

Bonnet Springs Park, which organizers expect to open in 2020, will be located along Lake Bonnet on a property that includes forest and a former CSX railyard.