Home » MBJ FEATURE » Second phase of Smith Park renovation underway
A worker operates a backhoe Monday to demolish one of the concrete 'creeks' in Smith Park.

Second phase of Smith Park renovation underway

The concept design for the future of Smith Park in Downtown Jackson.

By JACK WEATHERLY

The second phase of the restoration of Smith Park in downtown Jackson is underway.

Concrete water courses with “boulders” are being removed and earthen berms will be leveled before the greensward is resodded, according to a release from Downtown Jackson Partners.

A safety fence has been erected around the park, which will be closed for two months during construction.

The 2.4-acre park has been a problem in recent years. Vagrants stay there around the clock, ignoring signs that say the park closes at dusk.

A woman was sexually assaulted in a parking lot across the street from the park in October 2016. A man who works out of the office building at 200 N. Congress was attacked and injured in July 2017 in the parking lot.

Churches provide meals on a regular basis to the people who dwell there. One of the major donors of food to the denizens of the park is Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church, which borders the park on Yazoo Street. A call to the church was not immediately returned. The park’s other boundaries are Amite, West and Congress streets.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in the release: “When completed, Smith Park will be a world-class green space for all of Jackson and the state to enjoy.”

Lumumba’s father, who died after only a few months as mayor, backed the project, which was born during the administration of Frank Melton. The elder Lumumba’s support was picked up by Tony Yarber, whom the younger Lumumba defeated.

The first phase of the restoration was the removal in November 2016 of dead or dying trees.

The $2.5 million plan is to create an expansive greensward with a new band shell. But funding for the bulk of it has not been secured. Inclusion in a state bond issue in 2015 and 2016 did not make the final cut.

Ben Allen, president of the Downtown Jackson Partners (DJP), said the business improvement district is working with the city to again present a proposed bond issue for the third and biggest phase.

Phase II will cost $100,000 and is being paid for by the DJP, Allen said.

“Smith Park is testament to what can happen when a city and its residents come together during a periof of financial hardship to improve the quality of life for the entire state,” said Allen of the DJP, which is working in conjunction with the city and the Friends of Smith Park.

“The restoration of Smith Park reflects the commitment of business owners and residents to transform downtown Jackson into the crown jewel of Mississippi’s capital city,” John Ditto, chairman of the Friends of Smith Park, said in the release.

Allen said in an interview: “We had a very good meeting with [Ison Harris, director of parks and recreation]. What they’ve agreed to do is simply to enforce the same rules and regulations that they do every other park in Jackson.”

“If the Boy Scouts of America wants to throw a camp out there, they’ve got to get a permit,” Allen said.

The 2.4-acre park was established in 1838.

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