Lakeland Parks & Recreation crews were busy today posting signs and fencing in the many public parks that were closed as part of the city’s efforts to promote social distancing as a way to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Fencing now blocks the sidewalk around Lake Hollingsworth at roughly eight locations that Parks & Rec Director Bob Donahay called “pinch points.”

Residents appear to be taking the closures seriously — for the most part. During a bike ride around Lake Hollingsworth around 5:30 p.m., I saw just two people on the sidewalk: a mom and toddler practicing on her tiny bike.

A little later, I saw another mom and child walking on the grass around Lake Morton and later a man on a bench. At Dobbins Park, some teens were holding football practice.

Fencing blocked entrances to other parks, including Munn Park, Barnett Park and the Frances Langford Promenade. The Lakeland Police Department’s mobile tower rose along the north side of Munn Park.

Signs forbidding parking on the grass have been placed along the southwest portion of Lake Hollingsworth, where dozens of vehicles have parked each evening in recent months.

City commissioners voted 6-1 Wednesday to close all city parks effective this morning. The action came shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide safer-at-home order.

A primary concern was crowding along the Lake Hollingsworth trail, where it’s difficult to keep a six-foot distance while passing people walking, jogging, skating or biking the opposite direction.

The closures include walking trails, tennis courts, boat ramps and the Cleveland Heights Golf Course.


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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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