Downtown park gets nod from Chamber, aldermen

Published 7:44 pm Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Theresa Penton was named president of Poplarville’s Chamber of Commerce last Saturday after having served as secretary and then vice-president for the past two terms. Her first order of business as new president was to meet with Mayor Billy Spiers and the board of aldermen to discuss plans for a downtown park proposed by the Chamber.

Earlier this spring, the Chamber approached the Poplarville aldermen with the idea of revitalizing the downtown area by creating a park on property adjacent to Martin Luther King Drive and the railroad tracks. The city had already leased the railroad property, which had been home to NAPA Auto for many years, and had discussed developing a green space and additional parking to help downtown businesses.

The aldermen, however, had not taken any action due to lack of funding for such a project.

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Members of the Chamber had been discussing the benefits of such an area and had gone to the city with its own proposal. With the city’s backing, the Chamber left with the intent of doing the legwork necessary to move the project forward.

When Penton addressed the board this week, she presented a copy of the proposed plans for the 24,000-square-foot piece of property and the commitments by a number of people to make it a reality.

Pearl River Community College drafting and design technology students, as a class project, came out and measured the property and made the drawings for the Chamber. Students enrolled in PRCC’s new heavy equipment construction class are scheduled to clear the property of concrete slabs and sidewalks, while carpentry students will build a gazebo and picnic tables and benches for the park.

One member of the community who wants to remain anonymous is donating a dump truck and fill-dirt to complete the site preparations for construction of the park. The USDA is donating magnolia trees to plant, and Longleaf Farm and Garden and Miller’s Nursery are donating shrubbery and other plants to landscape the area.

Penton told aldermen that the Chamber has had everything donated except for the lumber for the college students to build the gazebo and picnic tables. She is hoping for more donations from members of the community to help complete the project.

After accounting for all of the donations, Penton then turned to the board and said, “I’m only asking for help on parking from you. If you will take care of the parking, we’ll take care of the rest.”

After hearing of the willingness of the community to make the park a reality, Dr. John Grant smiled and said, “We’re not about to be the first people to tell you, ‘No’.”

The mayor said he would talk to county supervisors to see if they could assist the city in any way to help with the parking areas.

Penton said concrete columns will be constructed at the entrance to the park. She said the names of all individuals, businesses and organizations making donations of materials, funds or services to make the park a reality will be honored in that area.

After getting an initial estimate of $13,000 to remove a large concrete foundation from the property, Penton said the Chamber decided to turn an obstacle into a positive for the city. It would keep the slab and turn it into a permanent outdoor stage.

“We need something in this town for the kids,” said Penton, “where we can have outdoor concerts, pageants, and other community programs.”

She said she would love for the community to really use the park to bring all sorts of talent out into the open. In addition to concerts, she would like to see local artists showcase their work. She said she could see the permanent stage area bringing a great idea; to the community.

Penton said the Chamber is excited about the project and announced the project is on a fast track to be completed by June 14 — the date of the Blueberry Jubilee. With the help of the entire community working together, the new Chamber president feels it is not an impossible task.

Anyone wishing to help with the downtown park may call Penton at 601-795-1493.