Lakeland to reopen some trails, amenities amid coronavirus pandemic

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – As other municipalities are tightening constraints and issuing stay-at-home orders, the Lakeland city commission voted Monday afternoon to loosen some restrictions.

In a 6-1 vote, the commission authorized the reopening of some parks and amenities.

Walking trails, tennis courts, pickleball courts, the Cleveland Heights Golf Course, dog parks and boat ramps will be reopened.

Kevin Cook, the director of communications for the City of Lakeland, says the goal is to have them open by Thursday. In an email to 8 On Your Side, he said city staff is “working on a list of what they believe is manageable using the recommendations from the City Commission.”

City officials announced Tuesday it will use safety protocols at Cleveland Heights Golf Course.

Only one person allowed in each golf cart, unless they are members of the same family. Each golf cart will be washed and disinfected after each use.

Flag sticks cannot be removed. Credit cards, debit cards and cash will be accepted.

Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley was the only commissioner to vote against the motion.

“We sometimes have to think about the message that we’re sending,” she told 8 On Your Side Tuesday morning.

Roberts McCarley supported reopening walking and biking trails, but not tennis courts and the golf course.

“I don’t want to look back in a few weeks when we see exasperated numbers. I’m not trying to be Chicken Little that the sky is falling but I don’t know that we have a clear view of what the impact currently is,” she said during the commission meeting.

Roberts McCarley was also concerned about resources, like disinfectants and sanitizers, being used at the golf course instead of other places in the community.

8 On Your Side’s calls to Commissioners Stephanie Madden, who put forth the motion to reopen, and Scott Franklin, who supported it, went unanswered Tuesday.

The city closed all recreational amenities last week.

“Without meaning to, we’ve now forced everybody into the same commons paces and I think if we can open this up, relax it, use good common sense, I think it would be a move in the right direction,” said Commissioner Franklin at the special meeting Monday afternoon.

Mayor Bill Mutz told News Channel 8 on Friday he supported issuing a stay-at-home order, though he said it would be more successful if it was done in partnership with the county.

He voted in favor of reopening the amenities Monday afternoon.

Gated park spaces, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, basketball courts and bathrooms will remain closed, as well as all indoor parks and recreation facilities, including libraries.

“I think it’s asinine,” said Lindy Rose, a concerned Lakeland resident.

Rose said due to health issues, she is at high risk when it comes to the coronavirus.

“I have two dogs. They would love to go to a dog park. I would love to get out of this house, of course, but I’m not going to for the sake of myself and others and the healthcare providers in this community,” she said.

The health department announced Tuesday that a 60-year old Polk County resident died on Saturday from COVID-19, marking the first coronavirus death in the county.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 63 cases of COVID-19 in Polk County, 13 in Lakeland.

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