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Smith Park in downtown Jackson reopens after upgrade 

By JACK WEATHERLY

Smith Park will reopen on Friday after being closed since November for upgrades.

The fence will come down and festivities will start at 11 a.m. to celebrate the reopening.

Mayor Chockwe Antar Lumumba and Gov. Phil Bryant will speak, there will be food trucks and a band, said Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners.

The group, which is a business improvement district, spent $100,000 on structural improvements, $30,000 for removal of dead or dying trees and $20,000 for architectural and arborist services, Allen said.

In addition to the removal of a system of concrete “creeks,” which had not been functional for several years, damaged benches were replaced, damaged concrete “checkers” tables were removed and the stage was repaired.

Allen praised the city, which, he said, “has been awesome to work with.”

A major problem in recent years was the fact that homeless people had made a virtual home of the 2.4-acre park whose boundaries are Congress, Amite, West and Yazoo streets.

The sundown curfew and use permits will be imposed, Allen said.

Some incidents heightened safety concerns in the vicinity of the green space established in 1838 and is in the heart of the government and financial district.

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 and other groups had made the park a distribution point to provide food for the homeless.

The Downtown Partners and city established communications with the outreach groups, and that has apparently led to a resolution of the problem.

While the park was closed, the outreach groups started using Poindexter Park in west Jackson.

A group called Why Not Now had spearheaded the effort and worked in conjunction with other groups and churches.

“We will not be coming back to Smith Park,” said Matt Hopkins of Why Not Now.

The city sought a bond issue of $2.5 million for the third year in the 2018 legislative session for a major makeover of the park but again the measure was not approved.

Allen said that the park closing, which was to end in January, was not because of waiting for the outcome of the legislation.

The fence surrounding the park was kept up to protect the resodding of the green space during rainy weather, Allen said.

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