Bonnet Springs Park Neighbors Pleased With Development

The people in the 27 modest homes of Crescent Heights were worried when they learned the massive Bonnet Springs Park would be built next door. But they now say they are encouraged by the security and lighting and neighborhood access to the park being built on a reclaimed railroad yard. The developers of the 168-acre park have held two community meetings to update neighborhood residents on progress. “This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lakeland,” said Bill Tinsley, Bonnet Springs president. “A lot of the residents are descendants of rail workers. They have a vested interest historically in the park.”


Masks Will Be Optional When Polk Schools Resume This Fall

Face coverings will be optional for students, faculty, and staff when classes resume in Polk public schools this fall. School Board members voted unanimously last month to change the policy after local COVID-19 infection rates fell in the wake of increased vaccinations. Masks were mandated last summer under recommendations from state and federal health officials as new cases and hospitalizations spiked. The decision puts Polk in line with other nearby school districts that are dropping mask mandates. The School Board had been sued by a group of residents opposed to masking, but their attorney said they will probably drop the suit now that the policy has changed.


South Florida Avenue Businesses Signing Up For Mural Project

At least 17 businesses in Dixieland and downtown have signed up for a city program to brighten up the Florida Avenue corridor with large murals. Officials with the Community Redevelopment Agency are hoping the Art Infusion program attracts more businesses, but one board member said some owners are concerned about being responsible for long-term maintenance. The most recent business to get a storefront makeover is Bent’s Cyclery, whose wall facing Patterson Street now bears a pensive painting of a sleeping woman by Miami-based artist Claudio Picasso.


Speakers Raise Noise Concerns at Hearing On Amazon Air Expansion

Noise concerns predominated when residents had a chance to comment about Amazon’s plans to more than double its air cargo facility at Lakeland Linder International Airport. Around 200 people attended a public meeting last month on the expansion plans expected to eventually increase Amazon flights from 22 to 44 a day. Following the meeting, Mayor Bill Mutz said he is optimistic that the Federal Aviation Authority will approve the first phase of Lakeland’s air traffic noise mitigation plan this fall, and implementation can begin by December.


A Year After Rallies, Has Lakeland Made Improvements?

A year after two racial justice rallies, each drew more than 1,000 people to Munn Park, has anything changed in Lakeland? LkldNow posed that question to community leaders. Mayor Bill Mutz pointed to a city initiative called Lift Lakeland, a series of “courageous conversations” and reforms to police policy and practice as the beginning stages of progress. Black leaders say they are pleased with the discussions but wish there had been more concrete actions and policy changes. City commissioners appear open to equipping police officers with body cameras, the reform Mutz said was mentioned most often when he talked with residents after last year’s rallies.


Large Events Resuming: Red, White & Kaboom; Christmas Parade

Large public events are returning after being canceled last year because of coronavirus concerns. Red, White and Kaboom, Lakeland’s major downtown Independence celebration and fireworks display, is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. July 3. Attendees are asked to bring canned goods to the Lake Mirror event to be donated to VISTE. Also returning: Lakeland’s Christmas Parade. It’s scheduled for Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. The theme: Seasons of Joy. Organizations can apply to participate at As always, parade-goers are asked to wait until parade day to place their chairs along the downtown parade route.


Indy Bookstore Will Feature a Coffee Bar

An independent book store opening soon in downtown Lakeland will combine a focus on recent titles and children’s books with a coffee bar featuring baked goods from Honeycomb Bread Bakers. Christina and Paul Needham are opening Pressed in a 2,000-square-foot space at 213 E. Bay St., and they plan to carry roughly 1,300 titles. “We hope that it will become a little gem in the community, a gathering space for conversations and community. And we want to support local authors,” Christina Needham said.


Historic House Moved As Apartments Boom In Garden District

Amid an apartment-building boom in the Garden District southeast of downtown, a century-old house was saved from demolition when it was moved a block from Orange Street to Lime Street. The yellow, 40,000-pound bungalow was partially dismantled and placed on a truck for a slow trek around the corner to a vacant lot where it is being re-assembled and restored by historic preservation enthusiast Gregory Fancelli. The lot it was on is one of two where CODA Development will build a 32-unit apartment building across from the Barnett Family Park.


Land Donation Boosts Plans for a Lakeland African American Museum

A nonprofit organization hoping to build a Lakeland African American history museum got a boost when they were gifted property at New York Avenue and Emma Street. The proposed museum would have a more focused look at Black history than the Lakeland History and Cultural Center under construction at the Lakeland Public Library. “Younger generations are not aware of the many things Blacks have contributed to the Lakeland community,” said Rev. Alex Harper, pastor at First Baptist Institutional Church and president of the proposed museum’s board of directors. “We feel there is an urgent need for some of these things to be restored in the memory of our community.”


Polk Lags Florida As Fewer Than Half Have Covid Vaccines

Fewer than half of eligible Polk residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19, while the state rate is several points higher. Forty-eight percent of Polk residents age 12 or older have received at least one dose, compared with the statewide rate of 56%, according to a Florida Department of Health report released June 18. The director of Polk’s health department office is urging more people to be vaccinated, saying there’s a risk for a new surge in infections as long as a significant number of residents remain unvaccinated.


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