City Seeks Comments About Park Needs

park mapLakeland needs 170 more acres of community and neighborhood parks to keep up with expected population growth in the next 10 years, according to a draft parks master plan.

Parks officials presented the plan in two public meetings designed to get public input on Thursday. A third feedback session is planned for today at 4:30 p.m. at the Kelly Recreation Center, 404 Imperial Blvd.

The plan shows progress made since the last master plan was adopted in 2005 and forecasts needs for the next 10 years.

To meet projected population growth, city Parks and Recreation officials forecast Lakeland will need 120.45 acres for an additional community park on top of the 296 acres existing, and 48 acres for 12 additional neighborhood parks, nearly double the current 45 acres.

Since the 2005 plan, the city has added 190 acres of parks, including 119 at Lake Crago off Lakeland Hills Boulevard, according to the planning document. Other improvements include a skate park, a dog park, nine football/soccer fields and two baseball fields.

The plan projects $6 million in capital improvements between now and 2025 that would fund a southwest community park complex, library expansion and improvements at Lake Crago and the Cypress Youth complex off Edgewood Drive South.

About 25 people, the majority of them city employees, attended Thursday’s first session at 1 p.m. in the Magnolia Building. Participants were asked to name the kinds of facilities they like most and what kinds they want expanded. The most frequent answers for “liked” facilities were rec centers/libraries, walking/jogging trails and playgrounds. The kinds of facilities most people wanted to see added or improved were rec centers/libraries, trails and basketball courts.

Just one member of the public attended the second session on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Larry Jackson Library. He said he learned about it through the city commissioners’ online calendar and an Instagram post from lkldnow. Today’s 4:30 session at Kelly Rec has been promoted through the city’s Facebook page.

During Thursday’s meeting, participants also had the opportunity to voice how they would spend the capital improvement budget. Suggestions included bathrooms along the Lake Hollingsworth trail, a library and coffee shop in North Lakeland and a splash water feature at Simpson Park on North Florida Avenue.

The Parks Department was assisted in drafting the planning document by Littlejohn Engineering Associates, which the city contracts with at $50,000 a year for park planning and design services, landscape architecture and engineering. Littlejohn also designed the Lakeland skate park, and are trying to develop a dog park.

The meeting began with this presentation:

Barry Friedman contributed to this report.