Secrets of the Past and Future
Constant surprises during the design and construction phases of Bonnet Springs Park reveal secrets of the past and future of this incredible piece of land so near to downtown Lakeland. Bonnet Springs and the lower portions of the former grove are home to hearty and thriving Banana Communities that are a delight and wonder to see. Located near the 35 acres of grove land that froze out in the major freeze of 1989, they continue to survive and thrive along the edges of the future Harrell’s Botanical Gardens.
Bananas will perform best when they’re planted in a moist, fertile soil in a wind-protected location that receives full sun. Since most soils in Florida are sandy and have low fertility, bananas need to be fertilized frequently (4 to 6 times per year) to have high growth and production rates. Bananas may be enjoyed best when returning to BSP in the form of banana pudding and shared with friends.
Bananas are not real trees, not even palm trees, even though they are often called banana palms. Bananas are perennial herbs. (Gingers, heliconias and bird-of-paradise flowers are distant relatives of bananas. They are in the same order, Zingiberales.)
For the past 50 years, the Bonnet Springs Park site sat vacant and overgrown. Yet just a few years prior to that, the site was humming with an active rail yard and orange grove. Between 1880 and the early 1950s, the site of Bonnet Springs Park was home to the Lakeland rail yard, which at the time was the largest employer in Polk County. From this site, trains moved phosphorus and citrus throughout the country. Lake Bonnet replenished the rail yard’s water supply and an active orange grove grew on the northern edge of the site. In the future, this site will play another important role for Lakeland as Bonnet Springs Park, a great central park for the city. Visitors will discover traces of the site’s past use throughout the park, but one garden, in particular, is devoted to telling this incredible story: the Heritage Gardens. Imagine taking a walk through the ever-changing Heritage Gardens and immersing yourself in the history of Bonnet Springs Park.
Whether you are coming by foot, bike, or car, the Heritage Gardens signal your arrival into Bonnet Springs Park. Closest to the Welcome Center are rows of raised planters containing small fruit trees to teach visitors about the history of the citrus industry in Florida. As you leave the Welcome Center and move deeper into the gardens, the citrus trees and planters transition into linear rows of flowering trees alternating with bands of pollinator gardens. These linear rows pay homage to the physical forms that once defined this landscape during the site’s industrial past.
In the center of the garden, a hidden meadow boldly interrupts the linear organization. Here, visitors can have a midday picnic, play on one of the ladder follies, or rest under the shade of a large live oak. As you continue your journey through the gardens, the linear rows slowly dissipate losing their structure as they blend into the grand Oak Grove.
Imagine returning season after season to these changing gardens to get a glimpse into Bonnet Springs Park’s history.
Giving Tuesday is Almost Here!
It’s the best time of the year — Giving Tuesday is just around the corner! Join us for this global day of giving, whether it’s some of your time, a donation, or simply sharing our cause in the community. The BSP team appreciates your unwavering support! Check out our event on Facebook and keep your eyes peeled for updates.
As a Founding Friend, Help Us Grow Our Membership!
A Founding Friends household membership is ONLY $30.00. It also makes a great gift!
Give a Founding Friend membership as a birthday, graduation or wedding gift! Be an advocate for the park and be sure to tell people everywhere that you go about the great work that is being done to bring this amazing resource to the community. There are still so many people who haven’t yet heard about Bonnet Springs. Be sure to tell your friends, acquaintances, co-workers and fellow members at the organizations where you belong, such as PTA, sports teams, church groups, social and civic clubs to go to www.bonnetspringspark.com and become a Founding Friend!
Founding Friends is a unique group of individuals and families who have demonstrated their support of Bonnet Springs Park prior to the Grand Opening.