‘We will have state-of-the-art recreation,’ Improvements moving forward

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2022

NATCHEZ — Bids are now being accepted by the City of Natchez for new playground equipment as officials continue to work with a $2 million bond to update city parks and recreational facilities.

During a public meeting with the city’s recreation committee at the Natchez Convention Center on Tuesday, officials updated roughly 20 attendees on the progress of planned improvements at all six neighborhood parks: North Natchez Park, Osceola Park, Jack Waite Park on McCabe Street, Duncan Park, Concord Avenue Park, and the neighborhood playground on Madison Street.

“We will have state-of-the-art recreation for our children of Natchez and surrounding areas,” Alderwoman Valencia Hall said during the meeting.

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Sanora Cole, who is the parks and recreation director for the City of Natchez, said work on phase one of the renovation of the Duncan Park golf clubhouse is ongoing. This includes work on the front of the building and moving offices to the Pro Shop on the left side of the building.

The city budgeted $500,000 for the project and planned to match that with a grant for $500,000, “But we will not be able to apply for that grant until 2023,” Cole said.

The city also budgeted $500,000 for the renovation of the North Natchez Youth Center and utilize it for community gatherings and lease for private events such as birthday parties.

The work on the center is estimated to cost right at $500,000, so additional funds need to be found for that project as well, Cole said.

Hall, who chairs the city’s recreation committee, said both buildings have been submitted to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to become historic landmarks, which could open up other funding opportunities.

“Once we have that we will be able to get more grants for both buildings,” Hall said. “There was some discussion early on about tearing down the North Natchez building and I said no we will not. There is history in that building.”

Part of this project also entails updating restrooms and making the facilities ADA compliant. During their last board meeting, Natchez officials agreed to add additional restrooms to North Natchez Park. Hall made the motion to do so and it succeeded. This came shortly after a prior board meeting when Alderman Billie Joe Frazier led a heated argument about the restroom facilities at Duncan park being better than the ones at North Natchez. He suggested tearing down the restrooms and building new ones, but his motion to do so failed.

In addition to the restoration of the two buildings, updating playground equipment and bathrooms and adding picnic tables, the city also seeks to build two additional tennis courts in Duncan Park. The Duncan Park baseball field will also have new turf added and should be ready to play on by the next baseball season, Cole said.

In her nine months as the city’s parks and recreation director, Cole has led several programs to encourage kids, families and friends to get outside and have fun—such as bicycle rides, Easter Egg Hunts and a father-daughter dance—with plenty more planned in the near future. These events have been spread out to all of the city’s parks to be inclusive, and so that everyone can know where they are, she said.

She added those interested in what is going on can follow the Natchez Parks and Recreation page on Facebook, where she regularly posts flyers of events.

Tennis Assistant Director Frankie Spence said people can also register for tennis and pickleball classes, and a crossover between the two, for all ages. Summer classes are June 6 through 22, he said.

“We look for ways to make it fun for kids, adults and everyone,” Spence said. “I want to hear people laugh. We don’t get enough of that. We’re going to try and reach as many people as we can.”

Richard Burke, the executive assistant to Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson, said second to pickleball, the “fastest-growing sport in America” is disk golf. Natchez Rotary club, Rotary International, and Community Alliance raised funds to complete the 18-hole disk golf course at Duncan Park and the city plans to add signage to the course to direct players.

Disk golf tournaments could bring hundreds of players to the city, Burke said, adding the course provides both an opportunity for fun and a potential economic benefit.

For more information on upcoming recreation programs, or to register for programs, visit citynatchez.recdesk.com.