Committee selection easy part for new park project

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Warren County Board of Supervisors made a smart move creating an advisory committee for the proposed new Riverfront Park.

I say proposed park because at this point that’s what it is. Yes, the Golding family donated land on Oak Street and yes, the city and the county have accepted the donation.

But at this point, no dirt has been turned and no facilities have been built. And that’s what makes the appointment of the advisory committee so important — it will take the time to receive and evaluate suggestions and recommendations from residents and experts involved with developing similar facilities.

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The appointments to the eight-person committee — county appointees Linda Fondren, Elizabeth Nelson, Janice Flowers, Michael Mathews and Dorwin Shields; and city appointees Fermika Smith, Mark Buys and Laura Beth Strickland — all have the area’s interests at heart and the necessary backgrounds to develop a good plan for the new park.

These are all people who in the past have been involved with community projects and know the importance of working together. Co-chairs Fondren and Smith are good choices to head the committee and keep it going in the right direction.

But the committee members’ selection is the easy part of the equation. The hard work starts now. And I expect the city and county officials to let them do their job.

From now until sometime before the next session of the Mississippi Legislature begins and city and county officials begin working to get state funding for the park, the committee will receive, examine and evaluate suggestions and recommendations as they develop a plan that will meet the community’s needs — not one section of the community, not Vicksburg, not Warren County, but everyone.

That’s a big challenge, especially when you consider the first Riverfront Park was the county’s most-used park. At any time during the week and especially during the weekend, there were always people there, whether walking along the riverbank, pushing their child in a playground swing or sitting at a picnic table eating lunch and watching the occasional towboat go by.

On weekends the park was full of people grilling, playing on the playground equipment or enjoying family time.

The park’s closing was a tragedy, but the erosion problems were too serious and the cost of repairing them too expensive with no guarantee they would be resolved. I saw the problems first-hand on several visits to the park with city officials.

Our local officials were wise to decide to build a new site for the park and the Golding family’s donation with its view of the river was a much-appreciated gift to the city and county. Riverfront Park was a treasure for this area and the committee has its hands full to develop a replacement. I believe they’ll meet the challenge.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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