‘We need … a whole plan’ for recreation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2001

Joyce Arceneaux wants city government to take positive steps to establish recreation opportunities for Natchez young people.

She has tired of city officials’ reactive rather than proactive stands on recreation and other issues, said Arceneaux, Natchez alderwoman for Ward 1 and a long-time educator in public schools.

&uot;We need to have a whole plan here and take our resources – and I know they are limited – and fund city government,&uot; she said.

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Arceneaux said city and county boards should sit down together, maybe in the form of a &uot;recreation retreat,&uot; and decide exactly what needs to be done and how to go about doing it.

She and Ward 2 Alderman James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray are two more aldermen who say they like the idea of a joint city-county recreation board.

And Arceneaux said if a bond issue is needed to build a recreation complex or any other recreational need, government officials should put it to a referendum and let the people decide.

&uot;We have to look at the entire community and see what they want done with their tax dollars,&uot; she said.

As the youngest board member, Gray said he feels in tune with the wants and needs of the community’s youth in terms of recreation.

Many of them say too much emphasis is placed on adult recreation rather than the youth.

In fact, that was one of the key messages presented by local youth at the Make A Difference Day held last fall.

&uot;They look to me and ask me questions, and I don’t know how to answer them,&uot; Gray said.

The needs for recreation are obvious, said David Massey, Ward 5 alderman.

&uot;If your youth don’t have anything to do, you’re going to have problems in any city,&uot; Massey said.

&uot;It makes better citizens out of your children,&uot; Massey said.

Parents of young people who are involved in youth sports also spoke out on the question.

&uot;We need to have more stuff for kids to do around here, especially somewhere for the teenagers to go,&uot; said Carol King.

King is the mother of three, the youngest of whom plays baseball in the T.M. Jennings league.

Thankfully, her 16-year-old son works a part-time job and her teenage daughter spends much of her time with the church. Without something to keep her children occupied, King said, she would worry about where they were, who they were with and what they were doing.

King said she was disappointed to learn that Duncan Park pool would likely remained closed this summer.

But even in years past when her children would go there to swim, the pool usually opened only for a few hours at a time, and then only for one month of the year.

&uot;Everything they build now is more for adults, and there’s nothing for the children,&uot; King said.

Shelia Williams has coached T-ball on the north side of town for three years. She said organized recreation is important to keep children out of trouble.

&uot;A lot of kids get into trouble because they don’t have anything to do,&uot; she said.

Her top priority for children is a pool. Her 6-year-old son has been talking about swimming so often that she has promised him when they go on vacation, they will find a place with a pool.

Willie Hutchins, a coach for the United Mississippi Bank team in the T.M. Jennings League, said he has heard talk of a recreation complex at North Natchez Park and thinks it’s a great idea – if it can be done.

&uot;You need something for the kids to do,&uot; Hutchin said. And though the summer baseball leagues occupy children for a time, when they end in July, the youth are left with nothing to do.

&uot;And if we don’t find something for them to do, then there’s people who will,&uot; he said.

But recreation does more than keep children off the streets, Hutchins said. Programs like Little League baseball teach children life lessons they will carry with them down the road.

&uot;It teaches them to get along,&uot; he said. &uot;We teach them sportsmanship, and that it’s not all about winning.

&uot;They have to realize somebody has to win this game and somebody has to lose, and the same thing goes in life.&uot;

Hutchins said more could be accomplished if the city and county would join together on recreation projects. And he might even be willing to be taxed if he knew that the money would be going the youth. &uot;You have to get the money from somewhere,&uot; he said.

In the stands waiting for the Discount Auto Parts team to start play, several mothers talked about the lack of recreation in Natchez and Adams County.

League play will prevent boredom for now, but when the season wraps up in July, more than one parent said they were sending or taking their children to visit family in other cities for the summer.

Patrina Jones said her 9-year-old son is going to spend the summer with his father in Atlanta simply because there is nothing in Natchez to keep him busy through the summer months.

&uot;Natchez is about the only place that doesn’t have anything for the kids,&uot; said Jennifer Townsend.

Margaret Matthews said she’s heard the talk of recreational complexes and indoor swimming pools, but she’s not satisfied.

&uot;I just hope the crime rate doesn’t go up because these people don’t have nothing to do. I hope they’ve thought about that,&uot; she said.

Doris Patterson nodded her head in agreement.

&uot;It’s going to be rough,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s going to be rough.&uot;