By 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.