First phase of recreation park gets under way

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 16, 2004

WOODVILLE &045;&045; Bulldozers started moving dirt this week in the first phase of construction of a planned 166-acre, multi-purpose recreational park in Wilkinson County.

The project is being supervised by Project Park Acquisitions &045;&045; a committee of the Wilkinson County Industrial Development Authority.

&uot;We’ve let the bid for the construction of the lakes.

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We plan to do as much as we can in phases until our grant money starts coming in,&uot; committee member Stephen Seal said.

Officials hope to secure initial assistance from two federal grant sources, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Recreational Trails Program. Both programs are administered locally by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

The Recreational Trails Program pays 80 percent of eligible construction costs, while the Land and Water Conservation Fund provides a 50 percent return.

&uot;We’ve already submitted the initial grant applications and met all the deadlines,&uot; Seal said.

The proposed park would include two 16-acre fishing lakes, four baseball parks, an amphitheater, a rodeo arena and equine center, a reception hall, RV camping, cabin rentals and horseback riding, hiking, birding and biking trails.

Seal said Warsaw Plantation of Woodville was awarded the lake construction bid.

&uot;We’ve started building the first lake on the north end of the property.

After the lakes are built, we’ll probably look at getting some road structure added,&uot; Seal said.

The Development Authority is a non-profit entity formed in 1996 to recruit a private prison to the county and oversee its management.

Corrections Corp. of America operates the prison and pays the Development Authority an annual $200,000 community impact fee to help recruit and support businesses and industries.

The Development Authority considered several possible locations for the park before deciding on a 166-acre tract wedged between U. S.

61 and Mississippi 563 just three miles north of Woodville.

The prison revenue was used to purchase the park property at a cost of $408,000.

Officials have said they plan to recoup half the purchase price of the property during the length of the project and donate portions of the property to the county as it is developed.

Through the park project, officials hope to use the county’s abundant natural resources to attract tourists and recreational trade.