Park off Fisher Ferry needs a clear, public plan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 14, 2008

On a former TV series, “The A-Team,” George Peppard as Col. Hannibal Smith, the lead character in a special missions squad would, at some point in every episode, say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

All of Vicksburg will love it when a plan to meet the city’s current and future recreation needs comes together. We’re a first-class town, can afford first-class facilities and have every reason to expect smart investments in facilities will be made both for use by residents and to enhance continued growth of this city as a tournament destination.

But first, it seems to us, there needs to be a plan. And if there is one, we’re not able to detect exactly what it is.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Maybe that will change next month. South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, a former parks and recreation director, said he plans to meet with representatives of Aquila Group in January to find out, in essence, who’s where.

We’re not talking rinky-dink here. Beauman made the comment about the upcoming meeting after the city agreed to spend an initial — emphasize initial — $2.8 million on grading work at the city’s 200-acre site off Fisher Ferry Road, purchased for $325,000. Another $125,000 will be paid to a contractor to guide what amounts to a land-clearing and leveling operation. There is no telling what the final tab will be for the complex Beauman envisions.

A wrinkle in the process came in 2007 after the Fisher Ferry land was purchased with creation of Aquila and the seemingly sudden decision that the city would contract out all operations and management of recreation programs and facilities. As we understood it, a study would be made and then some concrete terms would be negotiated. Part of the deal was a $250,000 advance to a Florida-based consulting and fund-raising organization.

The end, initially to be at Halls Ferry Park, was to be a public-private partnership in the creation, maintenance and operation of sports programs for youths and adults without rival anywhere. Halls Ferry has been ruled out, owing to the fact that some of it sits on a sealed landfill that should not be disturbed.

But is Fisher Ferry in? And if so, to what degree? Who will be responsible for what?

The city needs to take as much time as it needs to come up with a clear, phased approach to this investment and keep the process 100 percent transparent along the way. It doesn’t matter whether a private operator is involved or whether this is solely a municipal undertaking or some combination, the public needs to know folks aren’t just making things up as they go along.

People will love it when a plan comes together. But there has to be a plan. Yes, we’re talking about recreation — but too much is at stake for a casual, wait-and-see approach.