Workers in Munn Park got two surprises as they removed the Confederate monument that’s being reconstructed in Veterans Park:
- It wasn’t held together nearly as well as they thought it would be. “They were surprised that with hurricanes (during the last 109 years), the monument made it through,” City Manager Tony Delgado said.
- A 34-year-old time capsule that was thought to be lost was found. It will be reburied in Munn Park, this time with a marker, so people will know where to find it when it’s due to be opened in 2085.
Delgado relayed those two surprises as he briefed city commissioners about the monument move during a work session this morning.
This morning, city crews were placing “streetscape pavers” in the circle at the center of Munn Park where the monument stood since 1910. The pavers will be surrounded by the bricks donated as part of a park restoration around 1990s.
Chain-link fence still marks the construction zone, but Delgado said the work must be finished in time for a children’s festival scheduled for next Saturday that’s sponsored by Explorations V Children’s Museum.
Initially the city had planned to sod the circle that once held the monument, but Delgado said expected heavy use during events would mean replacing it several times a year. The pavers will allow the use of roll-away stages, he said.
The pavers can stay in permanently or at least until commissioners decide whether they want to erect something else at the center of the park “in six months or a year,” Delgado said.
Mayor Bill Mutz agreed it’s time to take a pause after weathering the controversies around moving the monument. “There’s some interesting conversations about using the space and designing something immediately, and I think it’s good for us to all take a breath and have some good discussions,” he said. “People can create some ideas and eventually we’ll move those ideas to something more deliberate.”
Julie Townsend, executive director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, said she already has some ideas revolving around her head about placing something in the center of Munn Park that will attract families downtown.
The LDDA is planning to schedule a public meeting in the next few months to present some ideas and get input, she said.
Meanwhile, workers are re-assembling the monument on a high spot in Veterans Park near the RP Funding Center parking lot. “By Monday, we should be close to done as far as erection of the monument,” Delgado said.
Both Delgado and Parks Director Bob Donahay praised the work by contractor Energy Services and Products Corp. of Tampa. That company estimated their work to move the monument at just under $150,000. Delgado estimated city expenses for site preparation, security, Munn Park restoration and a new security camera at Veterans Park at around $50,000.
Donahay told commissioners today that Energy Services is leaving the 27-foot monument better constructed than they found it. The statue at the top was attached to the supporting plinth with just mortar cement, he said. There were openings for a revolving “key” meant to secure the pieces to each other, but no keys were found, he said.
“What we’ve come to find is that it wasn’t attached as well as everybody thought it was,” Delgado said.
The other surprise came when Public Works employees were excavating the base of the monument. They found the time capsule buried in 1985. “Everybody remembered it, but nobody remembered where it was,” Donahay said.
With a marker, there shouldn’t be any trouble finding it when it’s due to be opened in 66 years, Delgado said.
“We’d like to put that on our calendars,” Mutz quipped.