The 18-acre community park is home to lighted multi-purpose sports fields, a basketball court, playground, walking trails, concession stand and dog park.
The city of Lakeland dedicated its first public park north of Interstate 4 on Saturday, August 25, 2018.
The ceremonial ribbon was cut to open Douglas M. Cook Park by Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz. He was joined by Lake Gibson Village CEO Renee Tucker, Cook’s sister, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, who starred on the football field at nearby Kathleen High School.
Cook, who died in 2016, was represented at the ceremony by his family – including his mother, widow, son and siblings. Lake Gibson Village staff and residents were also in attendance.
“This is a very joyful day for our family,” said Tucker. “We’re delighted to be here to share in this special occasion.”
Lake Gibson Village, at the direction of Douglas M. Cook, founder, originally donated the land, valued at $2.25 million. Lake Gibson Village is situated across from the park on Carpenters Way.
“The City of Lakeland is extremely grateful that we have partners like Lake Gibson Village that care about the well-being of the community,” said Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado.
The park is the new home to the Lakeland Police Athletic League’s football, baseball and cheerleading teams.
“Our mission is filling playgrounds, not prisons,” said Tim Abram, the Lakeland Police Athletic League’s Executive Director. “Whenever we’re able to keep kids off of the street and keep them in an area where we can supervise them better and watch them develop into productive citizens in our community, it’s always a plus.”
Before and after the ceremony, dozens of children and spectators were using the fields and enjoying a refreshment from the concession stand. The parking lot off Wedgewood Estates Boulevard was at capacity, with cars parking along the length of the park.
“This park is a much-needed facility the surrounding neighborhood will enjoy and the sports fields will allow us to address the immediate needs of youth sports programs,” Delgado added.
Tucker was presented with a key to the city by Mayor Mutz, in appreciation of Lake Gibson Village’s generosity.
“Carpenters Way will never be the same. It just received an infusion of energy that was really needed,” Tucker said. “Doug (Cook) raised the bar in north Lakeland.”