LAKELAND, Fla. - If you stroll through Munn Park in Downtown Lakeland, you'll see it's full of holiday decorations and cheer, but one thing is notably missing.
As Bernnie Brandt of Lakeland walked through Munn Park with his wife and baby over the weekend, he loved the candy cane and Santa Claus lights and toy soldier decorations, though he couldn't help but notice something symbolic of the Christmas season was missing.
"We got to the middle and I made the comment, 'Oh, there's nothing here.' It's just a slab," said Brandt.
Some residents believe Munn Park's decor is missing something.
Brandt created a Change.org petition to call for the city to place a holiday tree in the empty space in the middle of the park. The petition has so far gathered more than 400 signatures out of its 500-signature goal.
A confederate monument used to sit in the spot, but city commissioners voted to move it in March 2019.
"We feel like the park's already very well decorated," said Kevin Cook, a spokesperson for the city. "If you look at the surface here, it's not conducive for a large tree. You'd have to have some type of lines to come out into the grass, and it could become a safety issue here at the park."
The confederate monument was moved in 2019.
Cook added the city likes to spread out its decorations, so they're not just in one area.
A 30-foot-tall Christmas tree is located at Lake Mirror which is less than a ten-minute walk east of Munn Park.
Cook said the lake area is designed to hold a tree, but Brandt says the location is inconvenient for some families.
City officials say a tree could be a safety concern in the park.
"If you have somebody with a disability, or you've got to have kids in strollers or you're not feeling up for it or if you're already on foot in downtown or you've parked in the garage or something like that, you aren't going to want to make the trek down there," said Brandt.
He believes firmly that a Christmas tree should be in the heart of downtown where people gather.
The city budgets $28,000 for Christmas and holiday decorations each year.