Sasaki Celebrates Opening of Florida Park

Bonnet Springs Park

Lakeland, FL – Sasaki announced a grand opening was held recently for Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland, after five years of design and construction. The grand opening marked the culmination of a partnership between Bonnet Springs Park and Sasaki, which designed the 168-acre park from conception to completion.

Before 2017, the overgrown land around Lake Bonnet was unused and contaminated from its days as a railyard. Now, with a restored landscape and four new cultural buildings, one of which will host the Florida Children’s Museum starting in November, Bonnet Springs Park will serve as a hub of culture and ecological education for Lakeland, Central Florida, and beyond.

The opening festivities took place on the Central Green, a sweeping lawn anchored by the Children’s Museum and two 40-foot sculpted hills built to remediate the formerly contaminated land. Other events took place at the Welcome Center, set beside the carefully curated Heritage Gardens; the Event Center, one of the first mass timber buildings in Florida and woven into the landscape of the Botanical Gardens; and the Nature Center, an ecological education center, suspended on a boardwalk over the six-acre lagoon at the edge of Lake Bonnet.

“Bonnet Springs Park required a level of synthesis between landscape architecture, civil engineering, and architecture throughout the design process that I truly believe only Sasaki could have provided,” said Anna Cawrse, Sasaki principal. “The park was driven by the community’s desire to have vibrant cultural spaces and showcase the beautiful ecology of Central Florida. Watching thousands of people enjoy the park at its opening was truly a moving experience.”

The park’s concept derived from the need to remediate the contaminated soil that was excavated on the former industrial site. Another motivation was the desire to slow down and filter urban stormwater runoff, in effect reducing the pollution and flood risk for the Lakeland area. These aims drove the project’s topography, the features that populate the landscape, and in turn the architecture that anchors the site.