Jackson gets $750,000 in state funding to upgrade parks

Driving range at the Pete Brown Golf Couse.
Driving range at the Pete Brown Golf Couse.
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 1:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Parks across the capital city will soon get some much-needed maintenance, thanks to the state’s 2021 bond bill.

Lawmakers allocated $750,000 in state funding to help make improvements at four Jackson city parks. It also included funding to make improvements and develop a long-range plan for LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.

Among allocations, the city received $500,000 for Pete Brown Golf Course, $100,000 for Lake Hico, $100,000 for Livingston Park and $50,000 for Northgate Park.

The Jackson City Council approved resolutions to accept the funding at its Tuesday meeting.

“This is the first time in my five and a half years we have received any funding like this,” Jackson Parks Director Ison Harris said. “It’s definitely a shot in the arm. We’re excited about it.”

Leaders credit Reps. Debra Gibbs, Ronnie Crudup and Christopher Bell in securing the funding. They also credit Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann for allowing the funding to be included in the bond legislation.

“Give credit to the Legislature. I do not vote, but I do support the parks,” Hosemann said, saying that this is part of an overall effort to improve recreational opportunities across the state.

“I don’t know if you saw the overall PEER Committee report, but it was damaging,” he said. “Our support for these projects is revolved around the fact that (we) don’t believe we’re where we ought to be.”

The Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review released a report recently that stated the parks have suffered, in part, due to a lack of prioritization maintenance planning, insufficient staffing, and a lack of accountability for cash payments made to enter the parks.

The report recommended that tens of millions be infused into the park system to help address the problem, Hosemann said.

The news comes as more and more people take advantage of parks and other outdoor venues in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harris said the city has seen significant increases in the use of its public parks, as evidenced by the 200-percent increase in revenue at Pete Brown Golf Course year over year.

In Jackson, the city plans to use funds from the legislature to address several long-standing problems, including drainage issues at Pete Brown and bathroom and security issues at Lake Hico.

“We’ll use some to purchase golf carts, some (to make) clubhouse renovations, and to add to the cart barn so we can house the new carts as well as do maintenance on the other carts and golf equipment,” Parks Director Ison Harris said.

“The main portion (of the funding) will be used to do drainage throughout the golf course,” he said. “We have a big drainage issue.”

Harris said that several years ago, a new drainage system was installed under the course’s cart path.

“Over the years, it has grown and clogged up and it makes water sit on the golf course,” he explained. “We have to get a new drainage system to drain some of that water out.”

Standing water along Pete Brown Golf Course.
Standing water along Pete Brown Golf Course.(Ison Harris)

At Lake Hico, Harris said funds will go toward upgrading the bathroom facilities there and installing new security cameras and lighting around the bathroom and playground facilities.

Like at Pete Brown, funds for the Northgate Park will also be used to address drainage concerns.

“We’re going to address major drainage issues and add security cameras,” he said. “We may be able to do a little playground equipment there as well.”

At Livingston Park, funds are being used to restore Livingston Lake and to again make it a recreational facility.

The Lake is located at Livingston Park, adjacent to the Jackson Zoological Park. The lake has been close for swimming and other recreational uses for years.

“We’re going to do a lot of lake work – dredge it, put paddle boats in there and put a barn out there to secure the boats,” Harris said.

Harris hopes to have projects completed by the end of 2022.

Additional funds were also allocated to build a new entrance to LeFleur’s Bluff State Park and to conduct a long-range study to determine the best future use for the park.

“I met with the Children’s Museum Group, the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks group and all of them have agreed to employ an architectural firm on how to best use the property and what would be the future of it,” Hosemann said. “We supported that and provided for that funding, around $250,000, to have that done.”

“I’m anxious to get that report.”

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