The Case for a Carousel

The LDDA represents and advocates for the development and success of downtown. So it’s our duty to think now about the next chapter of Munn Park. We have to consider the park’s future in both dimensions. How does it welcome and define our city? And how does it drive the economic development interests of downtown? As downtown goes, so goes Munn Park. And vice versa. Their fates are inextricably linked.

Let’s start by considering who uses Munn Park and why.

Why do people come to Munn Park?

More than any other Lakeland park, Munn Park’s appeal rests on its location and on seeing fellow citizens. Maybe that’s a festival, a First Friday, as a side trip from the Farmers Curb Market, during a lunch break on a workday, sharing a meal from a restaurant or food truck, or local students on a walking field trip to use the park for play.

But on most days the park is almost entirely void of people, but for the homeless. If we want all of our citizens to be comfortable in the park, then we have to create a space more of our citizens want to be.

The loss of Explorations V is a risk, both to Downtown and Munn Park.

We’re super excited about the creation of Bonnet Springs Park and the role that Explorations V will play in that transformative project. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that Explorations V is Downtown’s most important attraction for families and young children in the urban core. When they relocate in a few years, it will leave a void.

The practical and symbolic benefits of a Lakeland carousel:

We think a Lakeland-themed carousel will reinvigorate and reinforce Munn Park’s fundamental role — both as the symbolic centerpiece of our city and as a family-friendly engine of popular energy and development for downtown. We believe Munn Park needs to be an experience like no other. We want the experience of Munn Park to be something that can’t be done anywhere else in the city.

Here are just some of the benefits of a Lakeland themed carousel:

  • A 36-foot diameter carousel fits neatly within the 41-foot central space of Munn Park, with little or no disruption to the existing park design.
  • It is a functional, story-telling piece of art that can instantly create an attraction, a reason for people to come downtown, in and of itself, that Munn Park has never before offered on a daily basis.
  • Carousels are active and engaging for all ages. It’s not just for children.
  • It would be no hand-me-down, used amusement park toy. We propose to build a custom-made, Lakeland themed carousel and we’ve identified a company that can do it.
  • It could depict historical Lakeland places, famous Lakelanders, Lakeland landmark landscapes. The figures can also represent the city. Each riding figure can be custom made for Lakeland – Swans for Lake Morton, a Tiger for Spring Training, horses for Circle B and Colt Creek State Park, an Alligator for Blinky, a Publix truck, a plane for Sun n Fun, etc.
  • The design and art choices can be a way to build community and ensure that what sits at the heart of our city represents all of us.
  • Much like the Swansation Project, the carousel could be a community-funded project. Businesses could purchase the figures. Individuals could as well to memorialize a loved one or a family name.
  • Existing park benches could be carved with family names as a way to raise funds to support the carousel.
  • It’s a nod to the past. Munn Park sits at the heart of our historic district. So there must be a balance between creating a space with energy and activity and being respectful of its historic significance.

As with any feature that encourages public interaction, the carousel would require a plan for operation, maintenance, security, shelter and liability. These have been part of the conversation since the beginning. We are working on proposals to address all of these issues.

Why we pivoted away from a gazebo/bandstand

Originally the popular idea for the center of the park was a gazebo or bandstand type structure. It too would have security, maintenance and liability issues. But the main reason we do not support a bandstand/gazebo idea is the number days/hours it will sit empty and unused for its intended purpose. It in and of itself is not a reason to come to Munn Park. As part of a park rental it may provide a space for a band or other activity, but live music does not require a dedicated space. Live music can and does already happen in Munn Park. A mostly dormant structure would invite loitering and become a place transients take shelter, sleep and smoke during the day.

Other Ideas

Though LDDA’s first choice is a custom-made Lakeland themed carousel because of the benefits detailed above, many other ideas have been proposed and they all have merit. But the criteria we use to examine any idea is its ability to create a unique, interactive experience not found anywhere else in Lakeland.

Make no mistake – the final decision about the future of Munn Park is not up to the LDDA. Our only power is advocacy. Munn Park is part of the city’s park system and the decision is ultimately up to the city commission. They will have many factors to weigh before their final decision.

Here are the ideas we’ve been given.

  • Bandstand/Gazebo
  • Water Feature
  • Sculpture
  • A Changeable Art Display
  • Garden
  • Bell Tower
  • Light Feature
  • Statue of a Famous Lakelander or Mr. Munn

We welcome other ideas that we can present on April 29th. LDDA staff will set up sample photos of as many ideas we can produce and ask for public input. We hope to see you at the center of Munn Park any time between 11am and 8pm on Monday, April 29. We will also partner with the city to produce an online survey and have opportunities for the public to stop by the LDDA office at 117 N. Kentucky Ave to provide input. You can also reach Julie Townsend at

This is the beginning of a long process. No decision will be made for many months, if that soon. We look forward to the community conversation.