Set sail with Hernando: a new playground comes to Lakeland

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Commonly known as “La Florida” after his famed landing, Hernando de Soto was the Spanish Governor of Cuba in 1536 and lead explorer throughout the state of Florida. The man led an expedition through Florida to locate and chart a course for his army while searching for gold. His march began July 15, 1539, and he waded through wetlands, trudged through rivers and bogs setting up camps in previously unexplored Floridian forests. During this trek the famous explorer made a stop in Lakeland, Florida at Lake Parker. This site is a stop on the state’s De Soto Trail and is included as one of our top parks in Lakeland.

To honor the famed explorer, the Lakeland Rotary Clubs worked tirelessly to create a new and exciting playground at Lake Parker Park rooted in Floridian history. A celebration of the joys of exploration, a replica 16th century ship stands guard over a tree house and zip line. A synthesis of adventure and education, the Rotary Playground encourages children (and adults!) to use their imaginations while benefiting from physical and social development opportunities.


This playground is the culmination of the efforts of multiple people and organizations. A concert by the Beach Boys at Joker Marchant Stadium in May was the largest fundraising effort. The city also allocated $200,000 to the playground ten years ago in a capital improvement plan, in addition to joint efforts from the Lakeland Rotary Clubs.

The playground officially opened July We can’t wait to explore the shores of Lake Parker, setting sail for a new land!