Bonnet Springs Park
Picture a place, close to downtown Lakeland, yet a place where mother nature’s healing powers are revealed through magnificent giant oak trees and a clear gurgling stream that rises out of the earth and flows to Lake Bonnet below. Picture a place where people of all ages and abilities find art, recreation, incredible flora and fauna, blended in a peaceful and restful setting within walking distance of downtown Lakeland. This very special place will provide social and economic benefits, provide a blended urban/natural park, and make the quality of life for future generations of Lakelanders better.
Great cities have great parks! As cities grow, citizens of the 21st century deserve great public parks in or near their neighborhoods, providing accessible recreation, contemplation, and enhanced enjoyment of life.
Windsong Park, Inc. acknowledges that its park partnership defines a new paradigm for designing, developing and managing a public park.
The bulk of the funds will come from private donors but the city can do things that only the public sector can. Strong leadership is required. City parks have a certain level of complexity as public spaces. From the beginning, we recognized that if we wanted to get this done there needed to be private leadership who could help move the project along and provide support to the city given all the demands on them and their resources.
The two big challenges of a solely public project are first that they get bogged down easily and move more slowly. The other important weakness is that administrations change and some projects take more than one administration to complete – and to sustain. You can find support from one but maybe not the next. Continuity is a key point in talking about the leadership quotient – and something that private partners can provide.
Lakeland’s Legacy: Lake Mirror park was conceived on the back porch of Tom Appleyard, president of the Chamber of Commerce at the time.
The prominent and unique features of the park are the promenade and loggia that are among Florida's best examples of the "City Beautiful" movement from the 1920s. Architect Charles Wellford Leavitt's design includes ornamental lamp posts and Corinthian columns that define the west side of the Promenade. The structure rises above Lake Mirror creating a vista to the east. Surrounding the park are historic buildings including the New Florida Hotel, now known as the Lake Mirror Tower Apartments, and the Magnolia Building, which contribute to the character of the park.
After several decades of neglect in the 1960s and 1970s, an engaged group of local citizens formed Historic Lakeland that worked to restore Lake Mirror Park to its original intended use. These efforts resulted in the park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The city established the Community Redevelopment Area and developed and implemented a master plan for the park that was completed in 2010. Through a series of Public and Private Partnerships, Lake Mirror Park has become the center of activity in the community and is the only location in the city that can accommodate large and diverse events. The park provides open space for residents, employees, and visitors to recreate, socialize, or restfully enjoy the scenery.
Munn Park is an oasis of green in downtown Lakeland, where people can spend a quiet moment amidst the trees and flowers. It has been a part of the city’s landscape since before there was officially a City of Lakeland. Abraham Munn, after whom the park was eventually named, was a Louisville, Kentucky businessman, who in 1882 purchased 80 acres of Polk County land sight unseen. Those 80 acres were to become the heart of Lakeland. And the heart of those 80 acres was to become Munn Park.
Since the 1920’s the city grew around these parks. They perfectly encapsulated the vision of “bringing nature into neighborhoods” as a way of shaping a city’s geography, its social interactions, and its economies. Emphasis on opportunities for Neighborhood Parks in subdivisions and regional parks for athletics were the long-range goal of City planners. Today, these urban parks create some of the most livable neighborhoods.
A New Legacy for the Future:
Before Bonnet Springs Park is completed, we must orchestrate the long-term maintenance funding to ensure that it will remain a safe, clean, accessible community asset that will be well-used and well-loved by present and future generations. This is a legacy project that will provide economic, environmental, and other community benefits for many years to come.