People walking, jogging or bicycling along the western shore of Lake Parker are now getting an artful look at Lakeland history along with their exercise.
The former 5-foot sidewalk has been transformed into a 10-foot asphalt multi-use trail accented with painted tiles showing scenes from the last 100 years in Lakeland.
The art was created by students at 10 public schools. Most of the pieces are on 1-foot-by-1-foot tiles placed along the edge of the trail and around a circle at its southern base.
The tiles are grouped by decades with the 1920s represented at the southern end, which starts at Bon Air street two blocks north of Memorial Boulevard. Subsequent decades are seen as you proceed northward, and the immediate past decade is shown just before the northern terminus at Bella Vista Street. The asphalt path continues along the lake northward to Lake Parker Park.
Each decade is introduced by an eight-foot square mural painted on tiles nearly spanning the trail. Some of those are finished, and several have been sketched out but still await painting. Some of the barriers and yellow tape marking the murals have been knocked over.
At least two of the murals that were drawn by students are getting painted by professional artist AH Taylor, a Lakeland native and 1999 Harrison School for the Arts graduate who has created several murals in midtown Lakeland.
The art along the West Lake Parker Drive multi-use path resulted from a partnership between the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency and Polk County Public Schools. Schools that participated are:
- Highland City Elementary
- Highlands Grove Elementary
- Jesse Keen Elementary
- Spessard Holland Elementary
- Lakeland Senior High School
- George Jenkins High School
- Rochelle School of the Arts
- Lake Gibson Senior
- Lake Gibson Middle
- Lake Region High School
The project was budgeted at $820,000 and is being funded through the Lakeland CRA. It got a boost in 2016 when property owners along West Lakeland Parker Drive agreed to donate right-of-way needed to make the trail a reality.
The residents responded after city planners went to the Lakeshore Neighbors Association with a presentation of findings from a detailed study of the lakefront pathway.