Recreation renewal: Time to play ball

Published 7:20 pm Thursday, May 20, 2021

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In previous articles, I have written about the Natchez Renewal and the re-opening of our economy after a challenging year. Truly we have come through a historic time of challenge, and together, we are now able to celebrate many victories!

For proof of our progress, one only needs to consider our new jobs, stacks of business permits, burgeoning industries, and our strong tourism market. The citizens of Natchez are working hard! But eventually everyone needs to relax and have some fun. And, for all citizens of Natchez, from young to old, and even for our tourists, it is past time for us to focus on our “pass times” and usher in a time of historic recreational renewal of all of our city parks.

One thing we have learned over the past year is that it is essential for people to have something to do in open outdoor spaces. It is critical that our youth are given activities to not only help them develop healthy habits but also to find positive, enriching hobbies that will last a life time.

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Recreation is not only for our youth. Adults also enjoy our park facilities. Whether it is a round of golf at Duncan Park, a game of pick-up basketball at Concord Park, or a stroll through Jack Waite Park, breaking a sweat is good for the heart and for the soul.

Also, recreational tourism is a growing market, and our city must have more to offer our guests.

One of my first acts after becoming Mayor last year was to create the Mayor’s Recreational Renewal Task Force, chaired by Alderwoman Valencia Hall.

The first task force assignment: an assessment of all six of our city’s parks including the following:  Duncan Park, North Natchez Park, Osceola Park, Jack Waite Park, Concord Park and Madison Street Children’s Playground.

Leadership Natchez Class of 2020 had also done an assessment, and they collaborated with the task force to create a presentation for the City of Natchez Recreation Committee. Their findings were less than stellar… aging playground equipment, worn-out bathroom facilities, deplorable buildings and other facilities.

To say the least, Natchez’ city parks are in extremely poor condition and have been that way for many years.

The time for renewal is now. It is time we rehabilitate these sites and also provide new recreational opportunities like pickle ball and disc golf. We are currently looking at new playground equipment for all six parks, more tennis courts, renovation of our baseball fields, new basketball goals, new bathrooms, and a host of other recreational improvements. We also have plans for renovating the Youth Center at North Natchez Park and the historic Golf Club House at Duncan Park. And to manage what will be a tremendous task, we are now advertising for a full-time, experienced and certified Director of Parks and Recreation. A staff to assist this new director will soon follow.

I have thrown out the first pitch.  Now it is time for us to play ball. Natchez Deserves More.

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.