Legion Lake Park on Dulaney Street is slated for some improvements in 2021 after the Mississippi Legislature appropriated $150,000 for park upgrades. The appropriation request was made by the Chickasaw Development Foundation (CDF) during the 2020 session.
CDF director, Sean Johnson, added the park improvements to the request after Houston won a $25,000 grant from the Levitt Foundation to hold a ten-week concert series at the park.
“We made a couple of requests for quality of life improvement projects during the last session. We requested $250,000 to refurbish the old theater downtown into a public arts space, and $150,000 for upgrading the park. Legislators Jon Lancaster and Ben Suber were able to shepherd the request through the various committees and were able to get us the money for the park,” says Johnson.
“We’ll try again for some other projects (including the theater) next year, but, considering the COVID situation and the flag situation and all that the legislature was having to deal with this year, I’m very happy that we received needed help with one of our projects. We hope to work closely with the legislature in getting state investment in Houston in the coming term.”
The improvements at the park, which features an approximately five-acre lake, will include a walking track around the lake, including a new “fishing” bridge over the east bay, solar lighting and some RV hook ups as well as trash receptacles, graded parking and other improvements. According to Johnson, the RV hook ups were a good selling point to the project due to the park’s proximity to the nearby Tanglefoot Trail.
“Our hope is to start on this project in early 2021 and have the space completed in time for the Summer Concert Series, which was postponed this year due to COVID, but is slated for the summer of 2021.”
In addition to the improvements at Legion Lake, the CDF is also seeking funding for a splash pad to be located across the street at the park adjacent to the National Guard Armory. Johnson says that the splash pad will cost around $150,000 and construction will take approximately ninety days.
“There has been a lot of interest in having a splash pad in Houston and we’ve been looking at ways to get one, but state funding for splash pads dried up several years ago, so figuring out how to pay for one has been an issue. However, there may be some new funding options coming up next year, so we want to be prepared with our plans when that funding becomes available.”
Johnson said that many people have approached him online and in person about contributing money toward a splash pad, but he wants to be sure that the major part of the funding is available before he begins any local fundraising efforts.
“I don’t think we should be trying to collect individual donations until the larger funding is secured. If we were to raise $10,000 or $15,000 in individual donation and not find the rest of the funding, people would be disappointed. Once we get the major funding secured, we’ll begin fundraising on a local level.”
Johnson says that the construction company that builds the splash pads said that the Armory park was a great location because of its flat terrain and the availability of existing water and power. The nearby community center is another plus.
“We hope to make improvements to the community center that sits at the park while we’re involved in this project. This is an underdeveloped space with lots of potential.”
Another project is underway at Joe Brigance Park which includes substantial improvements to the playground. This playground will be funded by the tourism tax. Johnson says while he has not been a part of the planning of the Brigance Park improvements, which fall under the purview of the Parks and Recreation Committee, that he has seen the plans and has been impressed.
“They’ve got some really great new equipment picked out that will work both the younger and older kids.”
According to Johnson there is no set timeline for any of these projects, but they are all in process.
“What I hope people understand is that when dealing with public money and infrastructure, the process can be drawn out. Committees and boards, which mostly meet only once per month must discuss and approve improvements. Notices and bids must be posted for lengths of time, engineers must approve designs and plans and funding must be secured. It’s not like a family deciding to put a pool in their backyard, calling a contractor and getting it done…I wish it was…but these things just take some time. The good news is that we are moving in a good direction.”