Not a dreamer? Look at reality

Published 11:12 pm Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thank heavens for Kevin Costner’s “Field of Dreams,” for without it, we’d simply be left with reality.

I’ve called recreation plans in Natchez a field of dreams, this newspaper has used the phrase and Supervisor Mike Lazarus has preached it like the fire and brimstone recreation preacher he’s become.

The film title is overused when it comes to recreation in Natchez, as are the silly “if you build it they will come” references we’ve all been making.

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The fact is our sad reality has left us only to dream.

The recreation dream has a long history and a beginning that pre-dates me.

The two most recent failures were a campaign promise by former Mayor Phillip West to build a YMCA and, before that, plans to create a complex on the “bean field” site near Natchez High that were derailed because of digging restrictions due to archeological significance.

As best as anyone can tell, the bean field option was never really off the table, it just fell victim to politics.

Now, the dreamers are again looking at the bean field.

But let’s not skip too far ahead. Picking a location, deciding what will go there and even estimating cost are premature.

The real dream can’t begin until late Tuesday, and we, the citizens of Adams County, control our own destiny.

A “yes” vote on the recreation referendum gives elected officials the vote of confidence they seek to begin the real dreaming.

Then the onus — for everything — is on our leaders and the committee they appoint.

Would it be nice to know the final cost, the final payment plan, the details of what sports will be involved and the cost of upkeep now? Sure.

I’m a planner. And I tend to want all my questions answered when I ask them.

But only one question is on the table now — Do you support the idea of a countywide recreation program at a cost of less than $5.45 million?

It’s a yes or no question.

If enough of us say “yes,” then it will be time for a second round of questions, including exactly how our community is going to come up with the dough.

And if our elected leaders don’t come up with a suitable answer to that question, we can all throw a screaming fit and likely stop them from moving forward.

They’ve promised public hearings, so we’ll all have a chance to get our say.

Have our current local leaders earned the trust we must give them in order to get a recreation complex off the ground?

No, probably not.

But are generations of future children worth the risk now and the responsibility we’ll have to become active, involved, opinionated citizens later?

Yes, definitely.

Elected leaders don’t make a community — the people do. We’ll have to get behind the wheel of this dream if we want to avoid a nightmare.

Yes, the city is broke. But the county and the school district aren’t. So feasible payment plans exist.

And in the end, the biggest decision maker when you go to the polls Tuesday shouldn’t be the dream of what is to come.

It should be our reality.

Duncan Park’s fields are old, outdated and limited. The only softball complex in town has its limitations and a few drainage problems.

The swimming pool is dry.

The soccer field is an open lot next to McLaurin Elementary.

Economic development is stagnant; the tax base has decreased; morale is down.

Obviously avoiding recreation for decades hasn’t helped our community.

The question for you — Are you ready to dream?

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or