Playground at Catfish Row spruced up

Published 11:30 pm Friday, March 16, 2012

Kayla Redman of Vicksburg was at the Playground at Catfish Row the other day watching her 19-month-old daughter, Jayci Lynn Ashley, swinging.

“We come out here all the time when the weather’s nice,” Redman said. “I like it. It’s a nice park.”

Eight months ago, the park was in a different state. Litter covered the grounds. Playground equipment was broken. A 3-inch metal pipe jutted from a section of a hill children used for sliding, and a smaller plastic pipe stuck out where the children sat to slide down the hill.

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Things have changed. An orange plastic net — soon to be replaced by a fence — blocks off the hill. The metal and plastic pipes have been cut at ground level. Trash has been picked up. A butterfly garden is being planted in the rear of the park and small plants accent the front. Damaged equipment has been repaired or replaced.

“It’s definitely cleaner, it looks nice,” said Speler Montgomery, president of the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg, which in 2008 raised $230,000 and signed up volunteers from across the city to build the playground. Montgomery visited the park Monday to get a look at its condition.

When the park’s problems surfaced in July, Montgomery and other Junior Auxiliary members said the city wasn’t living up to the agreement it made in 2008 to accept and maintain the park. The complaints forced city officials to clean and repair the park and better maintain it.

“We had people who donated money to the park call us and say they had been there with their children and grandchildren and the park looked terrible,” she said. “One man told us he went there with his grandchildren and picked up a coffee can full of cigarette butts.”

Besides getting the park cleaned and repaired, the Junior Auxiliary established a new position on its board, “playground liaison,” to maintain a relationship with the city and ensure that problems were handled quickly.

“We have really been happy with the response from the city,” said park liaison Cisi Mathews, who took the position in November. “They have done a very good job. If we have a problem, I e-mail Jeff (city landscape director Jeff Richardson) and he gets it taken care of.”

She said a recent problem with a broken slide at the park was handled the day after she notified the city.

“It is working well,” Richardson said of the liaison program. He also said the city is awaiting delivery of a plastic fence, which will provide a more permanent barricade to keep children from sliding down the hill.

Montgomery said members of the Warren County Master Gardners Intern Program began planting the butterfly garden in September and will begin in a few weeks adding plants to attract butterflies.

The plants, Montgomery said, have been a welcome addition to the rear of the park.

“This area was really, really trashy,” she said as she looked at the garden. “The changes to the park have been wonderful. The park isn’t used much in the winter, but when the weather is warm, we get a lot of children here. It’s good to see it looking nice.”

Opened in late 2008, the $230,000 playground was a community project of the Junior Auxiliary, which Montgomery said contributed $40,000 of its money and raised the remaining $190,000 through community fundraisers and equipment sponsorships. Volunteers installed the equipment, which is handicapped-accessible.