Boards discuss rec plans

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2001

&uot;Let’s just get with it, folks.&uot; With that, Natchez city attorney Walter Brown pressed aldermen, Adams County supervisors and Natchez-Adams School Board representatives Thursday to decide whether they want to work together to develop and fund a recreation complex.

Members of the three boards met at city council chambers to discuss preliminary plans for a recreation complex proposed for the bean field next to Natchez High School on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive.

The National Park Service, which owns the land, has Congressional authorization to lease part of the land to the city. The land – about 109 acres on the east side of Seargent Prentiss – is surplus land the park service won’t need when it extends the Natchez Trace Parkway along Liberty Road.

Email newsletter signup

The park service is meeting April 11 to continue discussion of the Trace extension, which prompted Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith to try to put the boards’ agreement on the project on a fast track. Smith has invited park service officials to tour the bean field site April 12.

&uot;I believe this could be the biggest recreation project we’ll undertake since Duncan Park,&uot; Smith said. Smith said he wants to be able to tell park service officials that the boards are united in their commitment to the recreation project.

&uot;The city is obligated to do this,&uot; Brown said. &uot;We’re going to do it. Obviously it would be better to do it together.&uot;

Original plans for the project included baseball, softball and soccer fields, as well as community facilities. Time is of the essence not only because of the park service’s upcoming meeting but also because one of the baseball fields at Liberty Park is about to be lost to the Trace extension.

But having a place for local children to play sports wouldn’t be the only benefit to a sports complex, Smith said.

&uot;I don’t think there’s any doubt in anybody’s mind that if we can develop this, there’s an economic benefit,&uot; Smith said. &uot;We can host Little League tournaments, soccer tournaments. Any of these things have a tremendous impact.&uot;

And Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said that if the boards agree to work together on the recreation complex, it will show a positive step toward economic development.

&uot;A commitment from all three boards would show that we are working together toward economic development,&uot; West said.

Adams County supervisors Darryl Grennell, Virginia Salmon and Lynwood Easterling said they were receptive to the project but also wanted to discuss it as a full board.

&uot;The concept is not new and of course it’s essential,&uot; Salmon said. &uot;I think we need to sit down with the individual boards and find out how we will manage the funding.&uot;

Grennell said he wanted all three boards to have input in the project. &uot;Would the city and school district, if the county is going to be involved, be receptive to suggestions or modifications to the current plan?&uot; Grennell asked.

Smith said the plans for the sports complex are not set in stone.

&uot;I know there’s probably a lot of details – (such as) who’s going to operate it – that need to be worked out,&uot; Smith said.

After the meeting, Grennell said he would like to see a horse arena added to the recreation plans, even if it isn’t included on the bean field site.

Another recreation project that could be shared among the three boards is a natatorium, or indoor swimming complex. It would be located on school board property – where the old Liberty Park horse barns were – but could be financed by the school district, city and county if all three boards agree.

Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis said his board does not meet before the April 11 park service meeting, but he said he would poll school board members to gauge their interest in pursuing recreation plans with the city and county.