Update: The Lakeland City Commission passed the measure 5-0, with Commissioners Bill Read and Sarah Roberts McCarley absent.
Downtown Lakeland is going to the dogs — in a good way.
The Lakeland City Commission will vote Monday on a $283,000 contract to build a new dog park on 1.18 acres of vacant land across from the Lakeland Fire Department’s main station at East Main Street and East Rose Street.
The land near the downtown Park & Ride lot was deeded to the city by the Florida Department of Transportation in 2021.
City Manager Shawn Sherrouse said Rodda Construction was the only bidder on the project. If the commission approves the contract, construction would begin within 90 days and would take approximately nine months — putting the target opening date in September 2024.
Plans for the park include a 6-foot decorative fence, six gates, boulder retaining walls, paved paths and benches, a dog water fountain, dog waste station, a dog wash, a rain garden and signage.
The park would also house three dog sculptures made of scrap metal, which Sherrouse called “some of the neatest doggone public art that you’re going to see.”
Pam Page, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, said the city purchased the sculptures by Georgia-based artist Doug Makemson in 2015, when planning for the park began in earnest. They have been in storage ever since.
Page said the park is the result of a grassroots effort inspired by “a little dog who was considered the mayor of Lakeland.” Her name was Sparky, and she was a Portuguese podengo who started life at Polk County Animal Control. She was featured in an issue of Lakeland Magazine in October 2014.
Sparky held court at The General Store and then the Two Hens and a Hound custom framing and gift shop on South Kentucky Ave from 2007 until she passed away in May 2016. Her owners created a Facebook page with the working name of “Downtown Lakeland Central Bark” and raised $6,742 for the project. The funds have been in escrow with the city since March 2018.
The group was initially eyeing a .6-acre lot further north, but Page said that parcel was sold to The Joinery.
The current site, which is almost twice the size, serves as a stormwater retention pond. The bulk of the property is about three feet lower than the surrounding area. Page said it rarely fills with water and typically drains within a day or two when there is heavy rain. But if that happens, the park will close temporarily.
“The walking path will be around the rim of the park and will not be submerged,” Page said.
Page said the city has a “very creative name” for the park that it plans to copyright. “We’ll release the name once we have that completed,” she said.
The park will be the city’s fourth dedicated dog park. However, unlike the others — Dog Leg Woods, Lake Crago Dog Park and Cook Park Dog Park — this one will not have separate sections for small and large dogs.
Page said that’s because of its small footprint. However, she expects the park will be very popular.
“There’s such a bevy of apartment complexes within a two-block radius, it’ll be heavily utilized,” she predicted.
The project will be funded with:
- $6,742 from community donations.
- $50,000 from Parks & Recreation impact fees.
- $100,000 from the sale of land to The Joinery.
- $126,155 from the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency.
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