Why not dream big for recreation?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2001

Other cities have faced and overcome obstacles in providing recreation for their children. Natchez officials will find a solution, too, compensating for recreation property relinquished to make way for the completion of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

I don’t mean to make assumptions about the big piece of property by Natchez High School – that area we have come to call the beanfield. But I do wonder, given the archaeological concerns, whether we should begin to think of another place to build ballfields.

There is an alternative that keeps running through my mind, and I simply have to share the idea, no matter the merit or lack of it.

Perhaps city aldermen and county supervisors already have explored the possibility. If so, I’ve missed any public discussion of it.

So here goes.

Does anyone else think the old Belwood Country Club might make a perfect place to create a fine recreation center?

The county owns the property now, but the two governmental bodies already have shown they can work together very well. Take the nearly completed Juvenile Justice Center as an example. The city donated the property. The county is building the center. Both will contribute to the operation.

I was never a member of Belwood Country Club. I never swam in the pool and never played golf at the golf course or tennis on the courts there. But I’ve seen the property and I know how spacious it is and how easily the land could be converted to public recreation for our young people.

It would not be surprising to learn that county crews have filled in the swimming pool, hoping to prevent an accident there. If so, the pool probably is a loss as a potential place where Natchez youngsters could have swimming lessons and plenty of summer fun.

Still, the area where the pool was located provides a good location for another pool. And the old tennis courts evidently served members of the country club for many years. Do they survive? And if the old club house no longer stands, perhaps the foundation is still there. That would be a start, at least.

The idea behind the county’s acquisition of that property, which skirts the Mississippi River and has been prone in places to flooding during high water days, was to develop it as industrial sites.

That surely made good sense, as the property is near the Natchez port and has easy access to a road already used by a couple of industries located not far away.

Still, the idea is intriguing, that we could take that old country club and make grand baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a recreation center for indoor activities. Maybe a community garden could be tucked off to one side, providing small plots for families who have no space for gardening but would like to try to grow some of their own vegetables.

Pipe dreams? Maybe. On the other hand, if the idea has any merit or a shred of possibility, maybe someone in city or county government will give it some thought. If there are obstacles that we mere citizens couldn’t understand about changing directions from industrial site to recreation site, well, that would not be surprising either.

Still, some of the most far-fetched ideas have turned into some of the nicest surprises. Who would have thought we could build a wall to hold up our bluff?

Joan Gandy, special projects director, can be reached at 445-3549 or via e-mail, joan.gandy@natchezdemocrat.com