Parks and recreation: Natchez deserves more

Published 8:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2021

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One of the most important planks in our Natchez Renewal Platform is the renewal of our parks, to include recreational programs for our youth and better facilities for our citizens of all ages. This has been a topic of discussion for many years.

Well, Natchez — the time to act on this vision has come. The time is now.

Just a drive through any of our parks will tell the story: it’s long past time for some much needed TLC to our parks and recreational programs. And it’s time to TCB – Take Care of Business!

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The deplorable building at North Natchez Park is hardly deserving to be called a “youth center.”

The bathrooms at Duncan Park are unsanitary. Seating at our ball parks is in poor condition. Tennis courts are in need of repair, and we need to add to them. Natchez needs to become a tournament destination!

The icing on the cake is the Duncan Park Golf Club House – it is, for lack of a better word, an embarrassment. We in Natchez have one of the most beautiful and desired golf courses in the entire state. Our Golf Club House needs to have the same appeal.   

The good news is this: Natchez is less than four years away from paying off our Convention Center. This means that the city’s indebtedness, today, is much less than in years past. And our cash position is good. For the first time in years, we are not having to borrow against a tax-anticipation loan to pay our bills.

So how do we renew our parks and recreational facilities now, while waiting to retire the Convention Center debt in 2024? Renewal can’t wait three and half years. It needs to happen now.

So here is out best strategy. Because we are so close to paying off this debt, the city is in prime position to float a short-term recreational bond, without any increase in taxes. This bond can be re-financed when the Convention Center debt is retired. In doing so, the renewal to our parks can happen this year — and this will have an enormous impact upon our city. It will be good for Economic Development. It will be good for Tourism. It will even be good as a deterrent to Crime – our kids need something to do! And bottom line, it will be good for Natchez.

The planning has already started. Our Recreational Renewal Task force is already making an assessment of needs of all our city parks – we expect their work to be completed by the end of January. Our Tennis Committee is already making recommendations for improvements to our tennis facilities. We are trying to address a long-held promise to complete the community swimming pool.

And an architect hired by the city just before Christmas is now making an assessment of the Golf Club House at Duncan Park and will soon present a plan for its complete renovation.

Let’s get ready for progress in 2021. The time is now. Natchez deserves more.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.