November 2018 Newsletter

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. Contact your accountant for further Opportunity Zone investment information.
Bonnet Springs Park is anticipated to be transformational within the west Lakeland community. Some recent statistics, within a five- minute drive from the park site include:

  • Current median household income $28,362, compared to $58,100 for all U.S. households
  • Current average household income is $39,348, compared to $83,694 for all U.S. households
  • Current per capita income is $15,796, compared to $31,950 U.S. per capita income
  • Median home value is $45,190, compared to $218,492 U.S. median home value

(Source: Esri/U.S. Census Bureau data 2000 converted to 2010 geography)

It is anticipated that the location of Bonnet Springs Park within this Opportunity Zone will stimulate investments in projects that will produce jobs and living accommodations not now available to these residents and lift this community out of the demographics listed above.

This is just one more reason to support a park that is also healing 170 damaged acres adjacent to downtown Lakeland, while creating a world-class opportunity for relaxation, recreation, entertainment and education for all ages.


Architectural Design Underway

Significant and large-scale efforts are underway by the development team and consultants, which will result in ultimate construction of Bonnet Springs Park. Even so, when you drive past the property, it doesn’t look like much is happening. However, time-consuming testing, planning and permitting are progressing, which will allow remediation and site preparation to begin in early 2019. Something else exciting is happening.

Our architects are producing designs and specifications for the eight buildings to be located in the park. These include the Welcome Center and restaurant, Explorations V Children’s Museum, Event and Nature Centers, treehouse, tea house and service facilities. Each will be a state-of-the-art, exciting design which we believe you will love and enjoy.

We anticipate building construction to begin in mid 2019, and completed by December 2020. Therefore soon you will drive by and see dirt flying, and buildings rising! Thanks for helping it happen.


Kathy Abels: Tireless Promoter and Advocate

Before Bonnet Springs Park has fully formed its Friends of Bonnet Springs Park group, it has a friend in Kathy Abels. Kathy fell in love with the park at first sight, and has become an avid promoter. To date she has invited and accompanied dozens of friends and acquaintances to visit the park site and Depot. She knows that after seeing the incredibly beautiful property, and viewing the master plan, they too will fall in love with it, and become advocates and supporters.

Kathy and her husband Bruce travel around the world and return with ideas for the park. One such idea is outdoor exercise equipment which is very popular in Europe, and now they are planned for Bonnet Springs Park. Friends like Kathy Abels will ensure the success of Bonnet Springs Park by advocating, volunteering and engaging at all levels of park activities.

We salute Kathy for her deep and abiding affection for Bonnet Springs Park, and her willingness to tell its story far and wide. We look forward to many new friends.


Planting a Seed: Native Restoration and Planting at Bonnet Springs Park
Bonnet Springs Park is home to a number of distinct natural systems that reflect native Florida ecoregions, like Oak Hammock, Pine Flatwoods, and Baygall Swamp. Each natural system on the site has been heavily altered by past land use, and is in need of restoration and enhancement to improve ecosystem health. Understanding the complex native plant communities in each ecoregion is crucial to restoration success.

The first step in the restoration process is identifying and removing invasive plants to give a leg up to the native plants. Invasive species in the park have already been located and slated for removal as part of phase three design and documentation. The primary areas for restoration planting include the wetland, spring corridor, oak grove, wetland meadows, and buffer natural areas. It is an exciting time for shaping the lush character of this native ecological gem.


The restored tree canopy ranges from small flowering trees to large live oaks, and will provide shade, improve ecosystem health, and set the stage for unforgettable park experiences. The composition of plantings varies depending on the desired outcome of the area. For restoration areas, the plant composition will closely resemble their specified native community. For example, Bayhead Swamps are home to Loblolly Bay, Swamp Dogwood, Sweet Bay, and Red Maple, which will be planted to supplement the existing community. However, in the Botanic Garden, you might see new ornamental species that are climate-appropriate and provide ecosystem services but may not be native to the area, such as Jacaranda and European Olive.


This investment in restoration and horticultural plantings will make crucial improvements to the ecological health and vibrancy of the site. We hope this project plants a seed in the hearts and minds of the Lakeland community about the important role of trees and planting in creating healthy, thriving public space.


Friends of Bonnet Springs Park
Kimberly Elmhorst

I am pleased to announce that we are moving forward successfully with the formation of Friends of Bonnet Springs Park. The Friends of Bonnet Springs Park Board was appointed and we have begun meeting to create from the ground up how Friends of BSP can best serve Bonnet Springs Park now, in the near future and for years to come.

Friends of BSP will be an integral part in the support, education and advocacy of Bonnet Springs Park. Like many “friends groups”, the organization relies on this dedicated group of people to support the needs of the park, possibly raise funds for needs within the park and hold events for the Community.

Once our Friends of BSP Membership Structure is in place, we look forward to you being a part of this group. Bonnet Springs Park is going to be transformational for our city, county and state and I am confident that you will want to be a part of it’s legacy.


Friends of Bonnet Springs Park Board

Kathy Abels
Ashley Bell Barnett
Kimberly Elmhorst
David Grisham
Jeanne Hebert
Kathryn Koch
Jackye Maxey
April Mucci
Arletta Black Torres