Public forum offers residents opportunity for input on recreation

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018


NATCHEZ — Residents Monday voiced support for recreation projects such as enhancing the baseball fields at Duncan Park, fixing the roof at Margaret Martin Gym and constructing a new public fitness facility.

A public forum at the Natchez Convention Center hosted by the YMCA of Natchez aimed to gauge public sentiment for the future of recreation in Adams County.

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“This is y’all’s recreation program,” Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said. “This is not the board of aldermen’s or the board of supervisors’ or the school district’s; this is the City of Natchez citizens’ and the Adams County citizens’ (plan).

“We want y’all’s input, because we don’t want to build something that people don’t want.”

Approximately $2 million is available in the commission’s recreation budget over the next couple years, and Hobdy said the goal of Monday’s forum was to establish the best way to spend that money based on the public’s wishes.

Despite a modest turnout, Hobdy and YMCA of Natchez Director Alice Agner said they appreciated the helpful feedback of the few dozen in attendance Monday evening.

Hobdy and Agner presented many ideas throughout the forum, and attendees had the ability to vote using their smartphones for ideas or projects they supported most.

Some of the projects identified as high-priority by the recreation commission include revamping the three Duncan Park baseball fields, renovating Margaret Martin Gym and also making enhancements to facilities at Providence Park.

Concerning the first two projects, most residents at the forum voted that re-grading the baseball fields is the most important project to carry out at Duncan Park, while an overwhelming majority of attendees said fixing the roof at Margaret Martin is essential.

But aside from those projects identified as obvious needs, officials proposed numerous other ways to potentially build up recreation in the area.

One popular idea concerned building a public fitness court, an idea championed by Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell. The outdoor court would contain various workout equipment for different age groups, and Hobdy even highlighted some courts that have smartphone interactivity that allows participants — if they wish — to monitor and share their activity and even compete against others.

Though price would vary depending on the type of court sought, Hobdy said this project could be accomplished for between $60,000 and $90,000.

One of the other most preferred ideas was the construction of a new splash pad, which has also been identified as a potential project in the recently unveiled draft of a new master plan for downtown Natchez commissioned by the local nonprofit FOR Natchez. Hobdy said this project’s price tag would simply boil down to how much people wanted to invest in it, and he cited a range of between $50,000 and $250,000.

Other popular ideas and their estimated costs included building more playgrounds ($25,000 to $50,000), dog parks ($10,000), a skate park ($25,000 to $125,000), outdoor table games such as chess and ping pong tables made of concrete ($1,500 to $4,000) and low rope or climbing wall sets for children ($25,000 to $100,000).

A few attendees took the opportunity to comment on items that did not come up during the presentation.

Former Dixie Youth Baseball volunteer Garnell Webb said he felt the city and county had a plethora of unutilized green space on which the YMCA could capitalize.

Hobdy said much of the green space Webb was referring to was either privately owned, but also encouraged Webb and any others to tell recreation leaders about certain green spaces that might be available for development.

Hobdy also mentioned the 37-acre bean field that was deeded over to the Natchez-Adams School District last year for future construction of a new school rather than building a public sports complex.

After construction, Hobdy said, the space available for recreational uses would likely be limited.

Natchez Heritage School of Cooking owner Jarita Frazier-King proposed an idea of working with the school district to establish some type of joint facility within the school rather than separate facilities that merely share the same property.

Frazier-King also mentioned the new junior Olympic swimming pool, which is expected to be completed in early May. Frazier-King, who said she is a certified lifeguard, urged the recreation commission to work with the school system to train lifeguards, which would benefit both the commission and youth.

“That’s jobs and opportunities for them,” she said. “That put me through college.”

Agner said she had contacted the school district about that possibility and would continue discussions with the schools about that prospect and others.

One of the final comments concerned Trinity School. An inquiry about the soon-to-be closed school by someone who commented anonymously via cell phone posed the question about whether the school could be utilized for recreation.

Hobdy responded that the commission had not investigated the matter yet, but would do so in the near future.

“It’s something to look into for sure,” Hobdy said.

Those wishing to give input about recreation within Natchez-Adams County can still have their say by participating in the YMCA and commission’s survey at