Sasaki has designed a 180-acre masterplan in Central Florida for what it’s calling the “Central Park of Lakeland.” Bonnet Springs Park, situated between Tampa and Orlando, is set to become a major cultural magnet and an ecological jewel of landscape design in the state.

The massive site, which is being privately funded by a pair of local philanthropists, has sat vacant for over 30 years and gone through numerous attempts to reuse it. Now, the over-100-year-old former rail yard is being officially transformed with a vision from the Boston-based planning and design consultancy.

By restoring the site’s natural ecosystems and removing any harmful contaminants from its days as an industrial throughway, Sasaki will revitalize the land into a mega-park that’s safe for all ages. Because 84 acres of the abandoned brownfield contain arsenic and petroleum hydrocarbons, the team plans to stockpile the toxic materials into large, undulating hills, completely altering the land’s topography. The architects will also remove invasive exotic plants and construct wetlands and bioswales to treat stormwater runoff.

Sasaki Bonnet Springs Park

The design team will restore the site by removing toxic plants and leftover industrial chemicals in order to showcase the land’s natural beauty. (Courtesy Sasaki)

Four new buildings will also be constructed for the park, including the “Bridge Building,” which will be set between two man-made hills and house a children’s museum. Overlooking Lake Bonnet, a nature center will feature classrooms, an exhibitions space, a café, and a boat rental facility so visitors can learn more about the parkland and the freshwater lake itself. An events center and welcome center will additionally be built out for weddings, corporate events, and other large-scale gatherings.

An extensive network of walking and biking trails, as well as a sculpture garden and canopy walk will be incorporated into the park’s design as well. This huge community undertaking, backed by a 20-person advisory committee of local advocates, underscores the town’s collective dedication to its fast-growing population by providing a new connection to nature and play. Sasaki and the Bonnet Springs Park Board aim for construction completion in 2020.

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