City of Lakeland votes to once again close all city parks and recreation facilities

The 5-1 vote came on Wednesday.

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The City of Lakeland did a good job live tweeting a Wednesday afternoon city commission meeting that looked like some kind of online gaming nightmare.

At the end, city commissioners voted 5-1 to close City of Lakeland parks and recreation facilities n coincidence with an executive safer-at-home order delivered by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier today. Wednesday’s decision effectively reverses a Monday, March 30 decision to re-open the parks.

The commission also voted unanimously to follow the Governor's orders in regards to partnering with law enforcement to disperse groups of 10 or more people.

Lakeland’s new restrictions expire on April 30.

In comments after the vote Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz said he anticipated these kinds of restrictions to extend to June.

Commissioner Philip Walker made the motion to close “all parks,” including Munn Park, immediately.

“There is some discussion on whether or not certain spaces are parks,” the city wrote on Twitter. “The golf course, Lake Mirror, etc. ARE considered parks.”

Bob Donahay, Director of Lakeland Parks and Recreation, described how fencing Munn Park would work.

“Anything that we do would involve fencing and pinch points to minimize the cost of the fencing,” Donahay said. “We have been looking at this for the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, the Lakeland Ledger reported that coronavirus cases in Polk County have jumped 114% in the past three days and that one Polk County 60-year-old man with no travel history has died from the disease. As of Monday, March 30, more than 800 individuals in Polk County have been tested for the COVID-19 virus.

“There are 55 who have tested positive with 19 being admitted to the hospital,” Commission Chairman Bill Braswell wrote on Monday.

Despite those numbers, the commission, on Monday, voted 6-1 in favor of re-open the city-owned trails, dog parks, tennis courts, pickleball courts, boat ramps and Cleveland Heights Golf Course.

Wednesday’s decision effectively reverses that decision to re-open.

The commission took phone calls from the public during the Wednesday call where some callers implored county officials to reverse Monday’s decision.

Daniel Nutting asked that the city be “strong and forceful” with its decision, citing the burden that local hospitals will feel as cases of the coronavirus and COVID-19 rise.

One caller, Gilbert Buffey, asked Mayor Mutz if he could keep Cleveland Heights Golf Course open.

City Manager Tony Delgado said that as far as he understands, golf is not considered an essential activity and that both private and public courses would have to close under a “safer-at-home” order.

The most compelling caller, Emily, described a scene at Lakeland’s Lake Hollingsworth where people were everywhere and definitely not following the CDC’s six-foot rule.

Creative Loafing Tampa Bay tweeted at the City of Lakeland to see if there were any exceptions whatsoever Wednesday’s closure of the parks. We’ll update the post when we get a reply.

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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