Lakeland gesture for combat wounded veterans leads to confusion and tickets

Lakeland parking gesture for combat wounded veterans leads to confusion

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The City of Lakeland came up with a kind idea to honor combat wounded warriors. City officials reserved one spot for Purple Heart veterans at Munn Park in downtown Lakeland.

A sign marks the spot, but unfortunately not everyone notices the sign.

City leaders offered the parking space on November 12 after the Veterans Day Parade. Since then, 17 people have been issued warning tickets for parking in the space without a valid Purple Heart license plate.

City workers also noticed only two people with a Purple Heart tag parked in the space during the same time period.

While our News Channel 8 crew was getting video of the spot on Tuesday, several people pulled in, took a look at the sign and left. Three people did not leave and two were ticketed.

One woman saw the open spot at Munn Park during the busy lunch hour and pulled the wrong way against traffic, then backed into the parking space. It happened as we were interviewing a city spokesman about the issue.

We caught up with the woman to ask her if she noticed what she did.

“No, I didn’t see that. Why? I was just running to drop stuff off right there,” the woman said. She did not give her name, and got back into her car to leave.

Others seemed confused by the sign. One man parked his truck into the space, and left to go shopping. When he returned, he found a warning ticket on his wind shield. The man said he was wounded in Vietnam but never received a Purple Heart. He has a handicap parking permit and thought that was enough to park in the space.

The City of Lakeland says the dedicated space is only for people who have a state issued Purple Heart license plate, but because of the confusion and problems they are already altering the program.

New signs are being made up that will offer free parking on downtown street to anyone with a Purple Heart license plate, however the spaces will not be dedicated exclusively to combat-wounded veterans.

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