Work at Riverfront Park will benefit the disabled|[01/05/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2008

Vicksburg’s Riverfront Park is undergoing improvements intended to make visiting the recreational area more convenient for the physically disabled.

Though intermittently rainy weather has delayed work on the project, crews from the Vicksburg construction company DirtWorks were working this week to add new wheelchair ramps from parking areas to the park’s playground and convert the playground’s surface from wood chips to smoother, artificial ground. Crews are also set to install more play equipment specially designed to accommodate the disabled.

The work is being funded by a $150,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, matching funds from the city and county and an additional $20,000 donation from Mississippi Special Olympics.

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Joe Graves, director of Vicksburg’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the city hopes to have the work finished in March.

“The park is big for children from the area and big for tourists, and this will make it better for both,” Graves said. “It will just be a complete upgrade to this section of the park.”

Among other planned additions to the park is construction that will bring attention to birds and other wildlife that inhabit the river.

This includes the building of a “chimney swift tower,” a structure that will provide a place for birds to roost. The city is also working with Audubon Mississippi to set up informational signs around the park to draw attention to river fauna, according to Graves and Audubon Mississippi’s Bruce Reid.

“We’re doing a number of things to make people aware that the Mississippi River is one of the world’s greatest natural resources,” Reid said. “There are a lot of stories on the river, and the stories about the wildlife are pretty incredible. There aren’t many easy places to view the river, but Riverfront Park is one of the best.”

Riverfront Park spans 16 acres on the Mississippi River below Louisiana Circle and was created 15 years ago when land was purchased by the city, county and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. It includes about six acres donated in a long-term lease by Vicksburg Printing and Publishing Company and features play equipment, picnic areas and a walking/jogging path.