Lakeland Gears Up To Build Special Park For Toddlers, Families

Construction will begin in April on a Lakeland playground to be devoted solely to young families with toddlers ages 3 to 5. The Sunflower Preschool Playground is to be completed in time for its grand opening on Dec. 4, 2010.

"We are very eager to start this play opportunity," says Bill Tinsley, director of Lakeland Parks and Recreation. "We have already started some preliminary design of the park and we know it is going to feature unique playground equipment that is currently not available in our community. Young families are going to be thrilled when this park is completed."

The Sunflower Preschool Playground is to be built in the Mirror Lake district at Barnett Family Park, named for Carol and Barney Barnett of Lakeland. Mrs. Barnett is the daughter of George Jenkins, founder of Publix Supermarkets. It is hoped that the toddler playground will augment the success of the Common Ground Playground, another Lakeland city park.

"Common Ground is just so successful and crowded, you can barely find a place to park," explains Weezie Vreeland, who is spearheading fundraising for the project." And once the older children come, it's hard for toddlers to keep up. We just thought it would be nice to give the little ones their own space."

According to Vreeland, the planned equipment is designed specifically for toddlers to provide a sense of comfort and spatial stability, especially for children with disabilities such as autism. In addition, the plans provide for plenty of shade and room for strollers, as well as an 18-foot square sandbox and other amenities to suit young families.

The project funds grew from a memorial fund for Vreeland's grandson, John Kyle, who died in 2008. Additional funds have been raised by the Lakeland Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, as well as private donors.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Weezie Vreeland, Sunflower Preschool Playground
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