LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — “It would be nice to have it here,” said Dick Johnson, while walking his Corgi named Molly around Lake Morton Wednesday morning.
Johnson was looking forward to the Lakeland Christmas Parade passing in front of his home along Lake Morton.
He planned on having his grandchildren over and throwing a party.
“I see a big confusion in how that decision would have been made,” said Johnson.
Kevin Edwards was also on a walk with his dog Wednesday.
“I didn’t think it was much of a problem. We do have the Mayfaire. Of course it does have the barriers and the tents and the birds seem to move to the back and it doesn’t seem to bother anybody,” said Edwards.
Not everybody was happy with the plan.
When city officials announced the Dec. 7 parade, which will attract tens of thousands of people, would circle around Lake Morton, some were concerned for the Lake Morton swans.
The route change is for this year only due to construction.
Several dozen swans, descendants of swans gifted by Queen Elizabeth II, and other wildlife call Lake Morton home.
Sally Bendele and Sydney Milton started a Change.org petition calling on the city to revise its plan.
“I just thought it was a pretty insensitive decision to do that to our swans and it’s not fair to run a parade through their home,” Bendele said in an interview with News Channel 8 in October.
This week, the City of Lakeland announced it would change the parade route again, citing costs.
The city planned to block off the lakeside of Lake Morton Drive, which would require fencing and extra staff from the city and Lakeland Police Department.
“We had a very, very good game plan going in,” said Bob Donahay, Lakeland Parks and Recreation Director.
The fence, Donahay said, would have cost $22,000.
“When you add the financial impact, what it would have cost our city to be able to do it, it just didn’t make very good sense,” said Donahay.
Donahay said his main concern about the parade looping around Lake Morton was children falling into the lake, not the swans.
But the swans played a role in the decision, he said.
“I think even before the petition happened, my staff that tends to these swans every day, they had a concern even before that came out. That was the reason that we did across the road, we considered the fence panels,” said Donahay.
News Channel 8 reached out to Sydney Milton Tuesday to pass along the news of the change.
“Wow! I can’t believe we did it. Thank you for being a part of it and helping us get our voices out. This is amazing,” Milton replied.
The new parade route is as follows:
It will travel down Lemon Street towards downtown, turn left on Tennessee Avenue, then right on Main Street. At Massachusetts Avenue, the parade will turn right, heading south to Lake Morton Drive. The parade will turn right at the lake, traveling to Walnut Street before heading up Tennessee Avenue. At Orange Street, the parade will turn left and continue to the RP Funding Center, where the parade will conclude.
There are 125 units participating in the parade this year.