3 On Your Side Investigates: State of Our Parks Series Continues

Lawmakers tour Roosevelt State Park renovations.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 5:54 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Since a 2021 PEER report detailing declining conditions at our state parks, I’ve been investigating to let you know what caused it and what’s being done to fix the problem. I was invited back to one state park for a progress report.

And you will be amazed at the progress that has already been made and some new changes thanks to our reporting.

Here’s what I found out for you in this follow up on “The State of our Parks”:

Everyone likes to be a part of a success story, and the state lawmakers who joined us are no exception. They are visiting Roosevelt State Park in Morton to check out the progress of Phase One renovations.

Rep. Tom Miles said, “We’re showing off these here and hoping that other legislators and other leaders across the state will say, ‘Hey, look how nice this is being down at Roosevelt State Park, we want that done in our area too.’”

The transformation from what we showed you in our initial investigation into what you see now is noteworthy to say the least. Outside, there was rotting wood. Inside, the cabins there were rusting, and contained outdated appliances, flooring, locks, walls and furnishings.

Brian Ferguson, Director of Administrative Services, said, “This was a full-scale renovation so in which you’ll see today. It will be everything from the outside of the cabinets, new furniture, new equipment inside appliances. It’s renovated completely... a total renovation.”

And if it gets a little chilly outside, no worries, in this model renovated cabin, you have all the amenities of home - including a digital, state-of-the-art fireplace!

The change comes after a scathing PEER report citing the decline of most of Mississippi’s state parks and a 3 On Your Side investigation.

Andre Hollis is a Morton native who has been a part of Roosevelt State Park for more than 20 years. He’s seen the good times and not so good times here. He is now director of Park Operations for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

“Now in the past, we did not have the funds to be able to upgrade and do the renovation that we needed,” he said. “But right now, the sky’s the limit what we can do. And we just appreciate the legislators giving the funding that we needed.”

Both Rep. Tom Miles and State Sen. Tyler McCaughn are Scott County natives, and they admit Roosevelt State Park is a big part of their lives.

“We’re gonna see the return on this investment. But just having people back out in nature and experience our great state and the natural resources we have is the best return we can have,” McCaughn said.

What’s ahead for Roosevelt State Park? Sixty-three campsites to be upgraded, widened and decks installed. Ten more cabins to be upgraded - two of them almost finished and the Camp Store has been remodeled and restocked.

Said Ferguson, “We have about a $3 million project here. So, we... this was just getting started. So, we’re around about $350,000 into these two. And they’re going to be great state-of-the-art cabins.”

3 On Your Side Investigates: State of Our Parks Series Continues
3 On Your Side Investigates: State of Our Parks Series Continues(WLBT)

Sen. Ben Suber represents portions of north Mississippi. He is also vice-chair of the Senate Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee.

“Every state park I’ve been to, I’ve tried to go to all of them. They’re all the same issues,” he said. “All these folks are falling in, these cabinet are falling in, people want to go. They just they won’t feel comfortable, they will feel like they’re safe. They will go to a nice place.”

Suber, McCaughn and Miles are all confident that nice place will soon be in Mississippi.

“You know, you’re not going to get it done overnight. The problem didn’t happen overnight, but we’re proud of the direction it’s beginning to turn to,” Rep. Miles said.

Like Arkansas, Miles believes Mississippi should also invest in an active marketing campaign.

“Matter of fact, I’ve got a bill filed this year that we take a percentage of the tourism money to promote state parks because I know when I go out of town and I’m visiting in other states, you’ll see them advertising the state parks inside that state and then sometimes we’ll even see on maybe even on your TV station, other states that are advertising here. But, you know, if it’s out of sight, out of mind. If you’re not talking about and you’re not showing off with that, we tend to forget about it at home,” Rep. Miles said.

Brian Ferguson said, “We appreciate your reporting here. I think it has been great for us coming out today to see these renovations are going to be extremely great for the state of Mississippi. And when they get to see them live, I think they will get really excited about it.”

Ferguson said he hopes to have the work done on all the cabins in this loop by the end of December.

And on Wednesday, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks went live with its new Parks reservation system.

It has a new look with enhanced features that the agency says makes planning and booking a stay at one of the 21 Mississippi State Parks more convenient.

Reservations from the previous system have been moved to the new system and all future dates are now available for booking up to 13-months in advance.

Just click on www.mdwfp.com/parks-destinations for more information.

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