Finishing work on Bonnet Springs Park ahead of grand opening

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – After years of development and a slight delay from Hurricane Ian cleanup, Bonnet Springs Park is almost ready to welcome guests.

The grand opening of the park is on October 22 and 23.

“Ian hurt us a bit. We lost about a week of work cleaning up the storm damage. We had, unfortunately, some old trees that came down,” said Josh Henderson, executive director of Bonnet Springs Park.

The 168-acre property in Lakeland’s northwest quadrant was a railroad post a century ago.

“It was abandoned and it was an environmentally damaged piece of land,” Henderson said. “If you looked around now, you’d never know it.”

The park, which is free to explore when it opens, includes playgrounds, a nature center, a botanical garden, a lagoon with boat access and a butterfly garden.

“We’d like to be called the Central Park of Central Florida, so this is a very regional destination. Not just for Lakeland, not just for Polk County. But we want everyone to get out and escape, engage and explore at Bonnet Springs Park.”

It is also the new home of the Florida Children’s Museum, which 30 years ago was the Exploration V Children’s Museum in downtown Lakeland.

The new facility is more than double the size of the downtown location.

“They’re going to see some things here that are reminiscent of the exhibits that existed downtown and some completely new experiences,” said Julie Ward, director of learning at the Florida Children’s Museum.

Admission to the museum is $15 per person. It opens on November 4.

The Carole Jenkins Barnett United Way Children’s Resource Center and the Success by Six program are housed in the same building as the museum.

The program offers classes to families in need, with a focus on children up to 6 years old. You can learn more about Success by Six on the United Way of Central Florida website.

“We feel like it’s a wonderful enrichment opportunity because kids and families can come to our classes and programs and then visit the museum and then they can enjoy the rest of the day in this beautiful park,” said Gretchen Ćeranić, director of Success by Six.

The opening schedule for Bonnet Springs Park, including musical performances by Hunter Hayes and The Band Perry, can be found at official website of Bonnet Springs Park.

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