Located halfway between Tampa and Orlando, Lakeland, Florida, is a city with a population of 100,000, but is headed toward a million in its fast-growing metro region within a generation. One local family, the Barnetts—who built up the Publix Super Market chain—recognized that their hometown lacked the parkland needed for an urban area of that size. So they invested energy and money into sparking a major new recreation area for the region. The Barnetts and local allies announced acquisition of 160 acres, and creation of a plan for building a $50-60 million urban escape there, without any money from government. The property is about half attractive woods and lakefront, and half industrial land that will need to be reclaimed. Nature trails, playgrounds, gardens, bike paths, and other amenities will be constructed, and a private nonprofit will provide popular programming for the public, all within walking distance of downtown. The philanthropic sponsors are aiming for an opening around 2020.
- Reporting in the Lakeland Ledger, theledger.com/news/20170206/barnetts-to-introduce-vast-urban-park-in-lakeland
- Park plan, lkldnow.com/organizers-detail-plans-massive-bonnet-springs-park/