Hurricane Ian, which plodded across Florida from the mouth of the Peace River to Daytona Beach in late September, was the topic of two of LkldNow’s most-viewed articles in 2022. An account of the storm’s damage was viewed by more than any other story this year, and an article about community preparations came in at No. 6.

Here is a look at the 10 articles that generated the most traffic on LkldNow in the last year and what has happened since the original articles were published:

1. Lakeland Was Spared Hurricane Ian’s Worst; Cleanup Begins (Sept. 29).
In the aftermath of the hurricane, reporter Kimberly C. Moore rode with Lakeland police officers to survey the damage. She recounted it with text, a photo gallery and a video showing the same scene at different points in the storm.

2. Silver Ring Cafe Must Vacate 35-Year Downtown Space by Sept. 1 (Feb. 10).
Reporter John Haughey caught up with Tim Altman, who been serving Cuban sandwiches in a storefront across Tennessee Avenue from Munn Park for 35 years, after he learned his lease would not be renewed. Followup: Silver Ring has found a new home at 306 S. Central Ave., where it shares a building with VFW Post 2297. The new tenant of the Tennessee Avenue spot will be a 1,500-square-foot grocery/convenience store called bodega Market, which is expected to open next month.

3. Polk County Schools Removes Books from Libraries for Review After Group Complains About Them (Jan. 26).
This article by Stephanie Claytor was the first in a saga that continued throughout the year and was exhaustively chronicled by Kimberly Moore, first in The Ledger and later in LkldNow after she joined our staff. Each of the 16 books, which dealt with race and/or LGBTQ issues, was read and throughly discussed by two committees appointed by the superintendent of schools. In the end, all of the books ended up back on library shelves, although a few were restricted from some of the younger grades that earlier had access to them.

4. Plans for 541-Bed Hospital in South Lakeland Rile Neighbors (June 29).
People living near Valleyview Elementary School and George Jenkins High School took to social media, email campaigns and petitions to let county planners and commissioners know they were adamantly opposed to HCA’s plans for a hospital on County Road 540A. Followup: The Polk Planning Commission eventually voted against it, but the hospital still had a chance for approval by the County Commission — until HCA decided to pull their application.

The Family Lawn at Bonnet Springs Park. A portion of the Florida Children’s Museum can be seen at left.

5. Bonnet Springs Park Announces Opening Date: Oct. 22 (June 9).
Thousands attended the debut weekend of the 168-acre park that was built with private funds and is open to the public. Its contoured setting includes miles of trails, abundant landscaping, the Florida Children’s Museum, events spaces, playgrounds, and exhibits on local history and ecology.

6. In Preparation for Tropical Storm Ian, Polk Will Distribute Sandbags, Close Environmental Lands (Sept. 24).
This article, posted on the Saturday before Ian hit on a Wednesday, was the first of five articles we published about the community’s preparations for the coming storm and seven published during and after the hurricane.

A.J. Bates, left, and Aaron Bates

7. LHS Mourns Father and Son Who Both Became Head Drum Majors (March 4).
Reporter Donna Renfroe’s sensitive coverage of a tragic accident included side-by-side photos of Aaron and A.J. Bates in uniform conducting the Lakeland High School band a generation apart.

8. Wedgewood Golf Course Sold; 1,400 Residences Planned (April 28).
Wedgewood residents were vocal in their opposition to the project to put apartments, townhouses and single-family homes on the closed golf course. The developers reduced the scope to around 1,000 housing units, but residents remain concerned about traffic and compatibility. The Lakeland City Commission voted 6-1 earlier this month to allow the project to proceed; however they eliminated two buildings containing 40 residences from the project.

9. City Sets Record Fuel Rate for Lakeland Electric Starting Sept. 1 (Aug. 1).
Driven by an imperfect storm of hot weather, rising natural gas prices and transportation bottlenecks, Lakeland city commissioners adopted a record fuel adjustment rate for Lakeland Electric customers of $75 per 1,000 kWh. That rate is still in effect. City commissioners have asked for monthly updates — rather than quarterly ones — on the fuel charge; a Lakeland Electric spokesman says the next formal review of the fuel charge is scheduled for March. In addition, Lakeland Electric’s staff has proposed an increase in the base rate for electric service of 2.25% annually for three years. The City Commission and its Utility Committee are scheduled to determine the base rate in April.

10. Amid Global Scandals, Grace City Church Breaks with Hillsong (April 5).
Veteran religion reporter Cary McMullen put a local angle on an international story here. Following the resignation of Hillsong founder and pastor Brian Houston, who was accused of inappropriate behavior with women, the church council of Lakeland’s Grace City Church voted to drop its affiliation with Hillsong.

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Barry Friedman founded 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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