September 2018 Newsletter

PARK PROGRESS

David Bunch

An Update on Bonnet Springs Park

Bonnet Springs Park has its wings and is soaring toward opening in late 2020.  Land clearing and testing are obvious on the 180-acre site, but the beehive of activity is occurring in the labs and workrooms of about 20 consultants and planners.  They are plotting answers to everything from acoustics to zero footprints (that’s A to Z and all between), all intended to ensure that this park for everyone touches all the bases to become the great park envisioned.

An important element of its early success is community engagement.  Bill Tinsley, David Bunch and Kimberly Elmhorst are making the rounds of civic clubs, garden clubs and major institutions.  Let us know if your organization would like to hear about the park.  Early successes of these contacts include the gift of a $250,000 “Kiwanis Cares for Kids Treehouse” and a major five-year contribution from Allen & Company to establish a Perpetual Care Fund.  Kimberly will be setting up a team to establish a non-profit “Friends of Bonnet Springs Park” organization to advocate for the park.  She would welcome your involvement.  Her e-mail address is: kelm2370@aol.com.

FDOT has initiated a study to fundamentally upgrade West Memorial Boulevard which may result in a Memorial Blvd. connection to Bonnet Springs Park, as well as a link connecting Memorial Blvd. and Kathleen Road and a new pedestrian bridge over Kathleen Road connecting nearby neighborhoods.

Final plans for the remediation of remaining contaminants in the area of the former CSX railyards are nearly complete, and major earthwork to accomplish that will begin this fall and be completed in four months, under the watchful eye of FDEP and the City of Lakeland.  This work will culminate in the construction of two forty-foot tall “mountains” on the currently flat former railyard.  The park site currently has a fifty-foot elevation fall to the lake, and these forty-foot high mountains will create vistas from ninety-foot elevations.  Not the Blue Ridge Mountains, but pretty darn high for Lakeland.

The Sasaki-led Bonnet Springs Park master plan is essentially complete following a year-long effort that included many trips to Lakeland, weekly three-hour conference calls and meetings with citizens, focus groups and park leadership.  Phase 3, begun in August, will see the active involvement of the consultants, engineers and contractors, resulting in 100% construction plans and permits by the end of July, 2019.  During that period, remediation of the railyard area and dredging and creation of the six-acre lagoon should be complete.  By then a plan for handling stormwater runoff from a 600-acre off-site drainage basin is expected to have been approved by FDOT and City of Lakeland, allowing separation of this runoff from the pristine Bonnet Springs and cleansing before entering Lake Bonnet.  In addition, the study by City of Lakeland to determine nutrient levels in Lake Bonnet (highest of Lakeland’s 17 lakes) will be complete so that a plan for dredging and cleaning Lake Bonnet can be negotiated with SWFWMD.

Thirty-seven tons of accumulated trash have been removed from the park site and adjoining Crescent Heights neighborhood, as well as the removal of nine derelict buildings and twenty-six thousand tons of concrete foundations from the Florida Tile site.  The anticipated transformation of west Lakeland has begun!  Leadership of Bonnet Springs Park and Explorations V Children’s Museum are negotiating the 100-year relationship agreement (renewable) that will see their new 40,000 square foot Children’s Museum strategically placed between the two mountains overlooking the central green and event lawn.

An incredible team is hard at work, supported by the enabling Barnett Family and an enthusiastic and supportive community. Thank you all and GO TEAM!

FRIENDS OF BONNET SPRINGS

Kimberly Elmhorst

For the over 400 that are receiving this newsletter, MANY of you expressed an interest in getting involved with Bonnet Springs Park. You have asked “What can I do?” or “How can I help?” The BSP Board and Advisory Board are overwhelmed with your inquiries and would like you to know that your interest in volunteering is not going unnoticed. We are thrilled by the amazing interest by so many in this community. Even though we have been focused on design of the Park itself, we have begun the formal process of initiating the enabling documents for the Friends of Bonnet Springs Park as a 501C3 entity. We know that there are going to be an overabundance of volunteer opportunities and needs.  Establishing our “wish list” will be what we will be doing in the coming months and the next couple of years. So, with that said I would ask for your patience and thank you SO much for your expressed interest in volunteering in the various ways that we have not even thought of and some that we have.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or specific areas where you would like to volunteer so we can begin to create a volunteer bank. We know there are so many talented and enthusiastic people just waiting to jump right in. My email address is kelm2370@aol.com.

We are excited to create Friends of Bonnet Springs Park alongside you.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: IMPROVING WATER QUALITY AT BONNET SPRINGS PARK

Sasaki Design Team

The two major water systems in the future Bonnet Springs Park are facing tough environmental challenges. Lake Bonnet is the most polluted lake in Lakeland, and Bonnet Springs Valley, which drains into Lake Bonnet, is experiencing an accelerated rate of erosion along its banks. The Bonnet Springs Park master plan process revealed a main cause of both of these problems: a 66” diameter culvert near the Bonnet Springs’ headwaters that releases water from a 300-acre watershed and is responsible for around 40% of the pollutants entering Lake Bonnet. Even though the water entering this culvert is coming from off-site, the Bonnet Springs Park board has decided to implement a stormwater management design that will help restore Bonnet Springs Valley and prevent further pollution of Lake Bonnet.

The first step in this design will involve diverting water from the culvert, which separates the contaminated urban runoff water from the clean water coming from the sand seep spring. This drastically reduces the velocity of water entering the Bonnet Springs Valley and eliminates unwanted erosion from large storm events. The second step is to move the diverted water through a series of constructed wetlands to remove the pollutants carried by runoff from nearby roads, parking lots, and buildings. The first pond, closest to the culvert, will provide most of the treatment during small storms and the larger storm events will subsequently fill the other two ponds. These ponds clean the water in two ways: they allow heavy pollutants to settle to the bottom, and use wetland plants to remove excess nutrients through natural processes. Once the water is clean, it flows to Lake Bonnet.

Not only will this design approach improve water quality and help restore a sensitive ecosystem, opportunities will exist for park visitors to experience these new landscapes along elevated boardwalks and be inspired to act in ways that recognize the importance of clean water in our environment.  Already, a study is underway by the City to look at other measures that could be taken to improve water quality in Lake Bonnet.  Our hope is that in leading by example Bonnet Springs Park will become inspiration for other efforts to improve the health of the many lakes within the city of Lakeland and beyond.

CONTRIBUTIONS IN THE PARK

The Board of Directors of Bonnet Springs Park, Inc. a 501c3 corporation in Lakeland, Florida announced a major financial gift and establishment of a perpetual care fund at Givewell Community Foundation today.  Allen and Company, a premier financial advisory firm with a long-standing reputation for community involvement, made a significant step in the enablement of Bonnet Springs Park today.

The associates at Allen and Company have once again demonstrated their commitment to the quality of life in the Lakeland/Winter Haven area through the establishment of a fund to support the sustainability of this new urban park that is going to change the way citizens and visitors see and live in Lakeland. The 180 acre park, being designed by world class landscape designers Sasaki and constructed on the former CSX rail yard site, will expand the very footprint of downtown Lakeland and connect the northwest quadrant of the City.

“A privately funded public park is a new paradigm to central Florida and will require significant community support to sustain.” Said Ralph Allen, Chairman of Allen and Company.  “We want to continue the company tradition of supporting quality of life in our community and through this gift we are hoping to lead others in support of this incredible undertaking.”

The Bonnet Springs enablement team understands that the vision for Bonnet Springs Park received a major boost today.  Thinking beyond the park construction to operational expenses is a sound business strategy for future success of the park and the seeds are now in the ground.  We encourage you to learn more about this exciting new park by visiting us at BonnetSpringsPark.com.

SCHEDULE

Sasaki Design Team