Leave it to our awesome city to turn a water treatment center into a beautiful park for all of us to enjoy! Se7en Wetlands is Lakeland’s newest park located on the south side of town near Mulberry. The Grand Opening on April 14th was a wonderful celebration of the hard work our city has put into this project. We heard from City Manager Tony Delgado and Mayor Bill Mutz during the ceremony, but the most beautiful moment for me was when we heard from the Director of Water Utilities, Bob Conner. He spoke with such passion over not only this project, but for water conservation as a whole for our community, that I feel honored to have him as a leader in our city’s government.
7 Facts I Learned at the Grand Opening of Se7en Wetlands
1. Se7en Wetlands will offer more than 22 miles of hiking trails when completed.
At the moment there are 2 trails open to the public. The Gopher Tortoise Trailhead (2.9 mile loop around Wetland 2) can be accessed through Loyce Harpe Park and the Wood Stork Trailhead (2.4 mile loop around Wetland 1) can be accessed through Lakeland Highlands Scrub.
2. Se7en Wetlands is a former phosphate mine.
It was bought by the City of Lakeland in the 1980’s to reclaim the land through filtering reclaimed water! It’s a reclamation two-for-one 🙂
3. Se7en Wetlands connects to the Alafia River which is part of the Tampa Bay Watershed.
The Lakeland government had the foresight 30 years ago to start finding new ways to deliver the amount of water our city would need in the years to come. After looking at over 205 possible projects, they narrowed it down to 3, and Se7en Wetlands was one of those winners.
4. Se7en Wetlands receives about 10 million gallons treated wastewater each day.
5. Se7en Wetlands is named after the 7 different wetland ‘cells’ in the park.
We only have access to trails around Wetlands 1 & 2 right now, but construction has already started on the trails surrounding the remaining 5 wetlands.
6. Se7en Wetlands Is home to a variety of wildlife including threatened sandhill cranes.
We saw tortoise, alligators, cranes and a variety of other birds along Gopher Tortoise Trail. We were told that there are also snakes, deer and wild hogs scattered throughout the park.
7. Se7en Wetlands has been in operation, cleaning all City of Lakeland wastewater, since 1987.
This wastewater treatment facility was created to relieve pressure on the Florida Aquifer. The wastewater is treated, then sent to Se7en Wetlands where it is filtered through the intricate network of lagoons, and ultimately sent to the Alafia River or used for cooling systems at Tampa Electric Co.’s Polk Power Station.
So how was the hike?
The hike was beautiful! If you are familiar with Lakeland’s parks, Se7en Wetlands is like a mix between Holloway Park (also a former phosphate mine) and Circle B Bar Reserve. There is very little shade around the wetlands, so make sure you wear that sunscreen and bring a good hat for protection from that Florida sun. Throughout the hike we saw all kinds of birds and wildflowers, and spotted enough alligators in the lagoon make us extremely aware of how close we were to the water’s edge. We had a blast, got a bit of a tan and met some wonderful people along the way 🙂