News of Lakeland’s Swan Sale Crosses A Very Large Pond

Maybe it’s because people need some light news to counter the barrage of election and pandemic coverage. Whatever the reason, the city of Lakeland’s sale of 36 of its swans was covered on both sides of the pond — the Atlantic pond, not Lake Morton. Reports in England focused on the swans’ connections to Queen Elizabeth. The BBC headline: “Florida city sells swans after Queen’s gift leads to overpopulation.” Unfortunately, The Telegraph, a national newspaper, ventured into Fake News territory with a headline that got it wrong: “Florida city cannot afford to keep descendants of swans donated by the Queen.” Yes, the city spends money feeding the regal birds. No, that’s not why they were sold.


New North Lakeland Rec Complex Offers Aquatic Activities

Our city named for its lakes finally has a recreation complex centered around aquatic activities. The Lake Crago Outdoor Recreation Complex opened last month off Lakeland Hills Boulevard less than a mile south of I-4. The 144-acre city park borders five lakes. Kayak and canoe rental is coming soon. The large multi-use center includes classrooms for fitness training and yoga, a large event space and an outdoor amphitheater. Plans are already being made for the next phase, which will include baseball and other athletic fields.


Expansion Planned For Cypress Youth Sports Complex

The city of Lakeland’s Cypress Youth Sports Complex on South Edgewood is about to get a major upgrade and a new name. The 33-acre complex currently has four fields — two of them lighted — used mostly for soccer, but also for lacrosse and football. Expansion plans call for two new fields, and lights for all six fields, a playground and a walking path. Funding comes from two sources: $1 million from impact fees, and $600,000 donated by Mike and Kathy McGee. The complex will be renamed John McGee Park to honor Mike’s dad, who founded a local chain of tire centers.


Athletic Training, Nature Trails Replace Former Grazing Lands

Not too many years ago, cows were the main inhabitants of a large swath of land east of Lakeland Highlands Boulevard spanning from South Edgewood Drive almost to the Polk Parkway. But more and more, it’s become a home for sports and recreation. At the north end is the youth athletic complex you just read about. A bit south of that is the private Holloway Park whose nature trails have become a popular site for cross-country competitions. Florida Southern College has installed some practice fields along Lakeland Highlands Boulevard. And last month Southeastern University announced it plans to place athletic facilities on 36 acres donated by Ed and Mary Jane Holloway just north of Sam’s Club.


 

Local Congressional Race Getting National Attention

One race on Lakelanders’ Nov. 3 ballot is getting national attention: the Congressional matchup between Republican Scott Franklin and Democrat Alan Cohn. With no incumbent in the race, Democrats see an opportunity to flip the district from red to blue, while Republicans are focused on preserving its reliably red status. The outcome is even more pressing this year when some speculate that the presidential race could become contested and go to the House to decide. Each state’s Congressional delegation would speak as one, and the outcome of the local Congressional race could determine which party dominates Florida’s congressional delegation.


Shawn Sherrouse Named Lakeland City Manager

Shawn Sherrouse is going from a behind-the-scenes role as deputy city manager to the in-the-spotlight job as city manager -- the city of Lakeland’s chief administrator. City commissioners promoted him in a 6-1 vote on Oct. 20, with Commissioner Sara McCarley Roberts dissenting. She and Commissioner Stephanie Madden had lobbied to extend the search in hopes of finding a game-changing candidate who can bring an outside perspective. Supporters on the commission cited the Lakeland native’s forthright demeanor, determination and relationships he’s built in the community. Next step: City Commissioners vote on a formal contract Nov. 2. 


Dixieland Neighborhood Recognizes Its Historic Houses

A two-story bungalow on Hillcrest Street was awarded the first plaque from a new program that honors the more than three dozen houses in Dixieland that have stood for 100 years or longer. A map on the Historic Dixieland Neighborhood Association website shows locations of 37 Dixieland homes built in 1920 or earlier. Six of them were built by 1914. The first home to get a plaque has more than one tie to local history; it was first occupied in 1916 by a newlywed couple that included the daughter of Herbert Drane, a founder of Lakeland in the 1880s and congressman from 1917 to 1933.


Website, Marketing Push Promotes Lakeland Arts

Arts organizations in Lakeland are getting a marketing push that includes a new website with colorful branding, social media blasts and 10 billboards. The site, LkldArts.org, is intended to be a focal point for arts-related activities in the city and includes calendar listings. It’s an outgrowth of the Mayor’s Council for the Arts and a $23,000 contract with Made Brands. The council awards more than $200,000 in grants to local arts non-profits every year. Two organizations received grants for the first time this year, and Chairman Craig Collins says he anticipates further expansion of the council’s reach to accommodate emerging arts orgs.


City Ends Mask Mandate But Still Urges Their Use

Lakeland’s mask mandate ended last month. Commissioners declined to extend it when it expired last month because Gov. Ron DeSantis had removed the local government’s ability to levy fines to enforce mask mandates. The mayor and commissioners still urge residents to mask up when entering buildings where they can’t social distance. The city decision put the onus on businesses to decide their own coronavirus protections. For those looking for guidance on which businesses have strict precautions in place, the best source we’ve found is a crowd-sourced Facebook group called Lakeland Business - Operation Face Mask.


Turkey Talk: Election Will Decide the Name of New Lake Resident

The only thing funnier than seeing a turkey roaming the banks of Lake Morton is to see the politics that have sprung up over what to name the new resident. A primary election held on Facebook to name the winged creature prompted campaign ads, yard signs, charges, counter-charges and general frivolity. As the ballots were counted, proponents of the names Morton and Morty teamed up, and together garnered the most votes. They face fans of the name Gary in the general election. It might not be our most serious election race this season, but it’s created distraction and entertainment in turbulent times.

 

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