Common Ground: What We Talk About When We Talk About Government

Common Ground overviewBy now, you’ve almost certainly visited the new “Common Ground” park off Edgewood Drive. I know this because I think we’ve seen every citizen in Lakeland at some point in my family’s three visits. Last Saturday, there must have been 1,000 people there.

On a slightly less crowded day, I took the picture seen above. It doesn’t do justice to the full park, much of which you can’t see, but it gives you a sense of scope.

It’s a testament to how brilliant this park is that it doesn’t feel crowded and unpleasant even with that many visitors on hand. Common Ground is, bar none, the best children’s park I’ve ever seen. Designers seemed to have learned from the experience of Barnett Park, which, while lovely and great fun water fun during the summer, has a limited play area that can easily become overwhelmed. Common Ground uses space with great effiency, providing two separate playground/play areas, a giant sandox, a rock-climbing wall, a faux rock mountain with pump-fed stream, a king-of-hill astroturf mound that kids endlessly tumble down in heaps, and so and so on. There are also quiet spots – and less physically interactive spaces – allowing for children of all abilities.

I particularly like the elements of danger it brings: kids tumbling into each other on the turf hill; real, jagged rocks for scrambling along; a quirky, hinged balance beam, and stuff to climb everywhere.

The park cost $1.9 million, with about half paid privately by the Butterfly Sculpture fundraiser and Rotary clubs. The other half came from Lakeland city government and some grant programs from other governments. Now, I’m sure if you did a Polk Pulse question on this at least half of the respondents would call the city’s $600,000 contriibution, plus all the staff hours spent organizing, a waste of taxpayer dollars – or pork barrel spending, or something.

I would disagree. At its best, government is just a way to provide leadership to enhance a community’s quality of life. In a libertarian world, this park would not exist. It is your tax dollars at work. Not half bad.

27 thoughts on “Common Ground: What We Talk About When We Talk About Government

  1. BT:

    I am amazed at the popularity of this park.  The City’s Parks design team along with Glatting Jackson really did an incredible job outlining the various elements you described.  Word has gotten out and other communities throughout the US have contacted the City of Lakeland to discuss using the park design in their communities.  As you mentioned, on some days it seems as if all of Lakeland and many from our neighboring communities are at the park.  Just yesterday I passed by the park around noon and it was packed, I jokingly asked the person with me if people took off work thinking they would enjoy the park during the middle of the week instead of a crowded weekend.  The secret is to get there early around 8 a.m. and leave before 10 a.m.  That is the only way to beat the masses.  You will be pleased to know that at the latest City Commission retreat quality of life scored high.  I asked the City’s Park & Rec. Director Bill Tinsley if we would see another CommonGround in our community and his response – there is definitely a need, now we just need to find a way to pay for it.

  2. BT:

    I am amazed at the popularity of this park.  The City’s Parks design team along with Glatting Jackson really did an incredible job outlining the various elements you described.  Word has gotten out and other communities throughout the US have contacted the City of Lakeland to discuss using the park design in their communities.  As you mentioned, on some days it seems as if all of Lakeland and many from our neighboring communities are at the park.  Just yesterday I passed by the park around noon and it was packed, I jokingly asked the person with me if people took off work thinking they would enjoy the park during the middle of the week instead of a crowded weekend.  The secret is to get there early around 8 a.m. and leave before 10 a.m.  That is the only way to beat the masses.  You will be pleased to know that at the latest City Commission retreat quality of life scored high.  I asked the City’s Park & Rec. Director Bill Tinsley if we would see another CommonGround in our community and his response – there is definitely a need, now we just need to find a way to pay for it.

  3. Billy, its not only the Lakeland residents that swarm there!  We make the trek over on Sunday

    Unfortunately, the best park Winter Haven has doesn’t even compare to one of the playgrounds at Common.  We’ve been driving over to Auburndale for their new park, but Common will be our new default!

  4. Billy, its not only the Lakeland residents that swarm there!  We make the trek over on Sunday

    Unfortunately, the best park Winter Haven has doesn’t even compare to one of the playgrounds at Common.  We’ve been driving over to Auburndale for their new park, but Common will be our new default!

  5. I live in Winter Haven as well and we’ve been to the park a few times already. Would be nice if WH tried to make a park at least half as nice.

  6. I live in Winter Haven as well and we’ve been to the park a few times already. Would be nice if WH tried to make a park at least half as nice.

  7. One of the most important points you made is that even when the park is crowded, it just doesn’t seem so. I was telling someone about taking my 5-year-old great-niece, and when they asked if the park was big, I started to say yes; but realized no, it isn’t. The planning is just so fantastic with different areas laid out to keep the youngsters on the run and having fun. One recommendation to parents: stress to your children not to go to another play area without getting you first. Several play areas have different entrances/exits so losing sight of your child (even if just momentarily) is easy and scary.

  8. One of the most important points you made is that even when the park is crowded, it just doesn’t seem so. I was telling someone about taking my 5-year-old great-niece, and when they asked if the park was big, I started to say yes; but realized no, it isn’t. The planning is just so fantastic with different areas laid out to keep the youngsters on the run and having fun. One recommendation to parents: stress to your children not to go to another play area without getting you first. Several play areas have different entrances/exits so losing sight of your child (even if just momentarily) is easy and scary.

  9. That’s a very good point, the ease of losing children, with which I fully agree. I guess that’s the one downside of the wide array of activities. 

  10. That’s a very good point, the ease of losing children, with which I fully agree. I guess that’s the one downside of the wide array of activities. 

  11. I think the park was a fabulous idea….I also think Lakeland should build at least 10-15 more in different areas of town. My 11 year old granddaughter loves to visit the park…it is good exercise and gets children out of the house that normally just sit and watch TV and play video games and so on…Thanks for the park….let’s build more.

  12. I think the park was a fabulous idea….I also think Lakeland should build at least 10-15 more in different areas of town. My 11 year old granddaughter loves to visit the park…it is good exercise and gets children out of the house that normally just sit and watch TV and play video games and so on…Thanks for the park….let’s build more.

  13. I really commend the City of Lakeland and all people involved planning, creating and raising the funds for such an exceptional park.

    In all of your three visits at the CommonGround, which was designed for children of all ages and children with physical challenges. Have you seen any interaction that kids and children with special needs playing together side by side?

  14. I really commend the City of Lakeland and all people involved planning, creating and raising the funds for such an exceptional park.

    In all of your three visits at the CommonGround, which was designed for children of all ages and children with physical challenges. Have you seen any interaction that kids and children with special needs playing together side by side?

  15. Pingback: Lakeland Floridia Living » Blog Archive » LakelandLocal.com - Lakeland Minute: CommonGround Park

  16. We met there with 3 other couples and their children last Sunday afternoon. There were many special needs children at the park and it was great to see the other kids play right along with them.
    I love it because we have a 15 month old and there is so much for even his age to do..not the case at most parks!
    Have to agree with everyone else..it is amazing! So proud to actually have this park in Lakeland! More please!

  17. We met there with 3 other couples and their children last Sunday afternoon. There were many special needs children at the park and it was great to see the other kids play right along with them.
    I love it because we have a 15 month old and there is so much for even his age to do..not the case at most parks!
    Have to agree with everyone else..it is amazing! So proud to actually have this park in Lakeland! More please!

  18. can someone tell me if I can and if so how reserve a pavilion for a b-day party or is it first come first serve???

  19. can someone tell me if I can and if so how reserve a pavilion for a b-day party or is it first come first serve???

  20. can someone tell me of we can reserve a spot for a birthday party and how?

  21. can someone tell me of we can reserve a spot for a birthday party and how?

  22. I am starting the process of building a playground here in Gainesville. Who was the mastermind behind this park and how do I get in touch with them?

  23. I am starting the process of building a playground here in Gainesville. Who was the mastermind behind this park and how do I get in touch with them?

  24. Patti-
    The firm that master planned the whole thing is Glatting Jackson in Orlando. I know they have a web site (glatting.com) that might get you in touch with theie people. I think they were the City’s park design consultant creating the overall plan and the “big idea” and worked closely with the City to create this incredible place. Glatting Jackson specilaizes in parks like this. I have been to a couple othjers they have designed and they all are great places. I met one of the designers at the park one saturday and I think he said he also has a child with special needs. I bet he could help.

  25. Patti-
    The firm that master planned the whole thing is Glatting Jackson in Orlando. I know they have a web site (glatting.com) that might get you in touch with theie people. I think they were the City’s park design consultant creating the overall plan and the “big idea” and worked closely with the City to create this incredible place. Glatting Jackson specilaizes in parks like this. I have been to a couple othjers they have designed and they all are great places. I met one of the designers at the park one saturday and I think he said he also has a child with special needs. I bet he could help.

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