Officials tour repairs to Great River Road Park, discuss options
by Rory Doyle
Jul 25, 2013 | 2131 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Meeting to discuss ongoing upgrades were (from left): Ramie Ford, director of Mississippi State Parks; Rep. Linda Coleman; Robert Cook, deputy executive director for Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; Rep. Tommy Taylor; Andrew Williams, president of the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors; Sen. Willie Simmons; Carey Estes, Rosedale mayor; and Sen. Derrick Simmons.
Meeting to discuss ongoing upgrades were (from left): Ramie Ford, director of Mississippi State Parks; Rep. Linda Coleman; Robert Cook, deputy executive director for Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; Rep. Tommy Taylor; Andrew Williams, president of the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors; Sen. Willie Simmons; Carey Estes, Rosedale mayor; and Sen. Derrick Simmons.
slideshow
Delta legislators and leaders from Mississippi environmental agencies gathered Wednesday to discuss developments at Rosedale's Great River Road State Park.

Two years after the historic flooding of the Mississippi River, the park is still not back to what it was pre-flood and likely never will be.

However, many are excited that recent funding is already being used for reconstruction projects on the easternmost portion of the facility.

Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, helped organized Wednesday's meeting to shed light on upcoming changes.

"Through the cooperation of the legislature, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Mississippi State Parks department, we are working on making this section a very family-friendly park," said Simmons.

With contracts awarded in May, work has begun on the day use area east of the initial bridge.

Ramie Ford, director of Mississippi State Parks, said about $305,000 of support from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks will be used to enhance the area with increased fishing access, a new pier, playground, restroom facilities, handicapped access, more paved access and security lighting.

"There have been so major challenges since the flood, but we think upgrading the day use area is the most practical use of funding," said Ford, who added that these additions should be completed by mid-October.

The western riverbank portion of the park will remain closed until further notice, with the exception of planned tours to visit the 75-foot high overlook tower, which provides a panoramic view of the river.

Tourists and locals will eventually be able to book visits to this attraction through Rosedale City Hall or the MDWFP, once reconstruction of the tower and the adjacent pavilion is completed.

The legislature appropriated $120,000 for the tower repairs, applicable during the current budget cycle.

Ford said they are actively seeking quotes to determine costs for tower renovations.

Robert Cook, deputy executive director for MDWFP, said he understands that many citizens would like to see the park reopened at full capacity, but all parties involved are constrained by the costs associated with the large area.

"Never is a long time, but we don't see this as a possibility any time in the near future," said Cook. "The biggest reason for this is the cost of staffing."

Workers would need to be present for park maintenance, security and safety — all of which are not currently feasible.

"Know this — we are doing everything possible and practical to keep opportunities at this park," added Cook. "Our agency is here to serve the public in the best possible way."

Lying between the river and the levee system, the park also faces the risk of more drastic flooding — thus continuing a costly cycle of repair and reopen.

"At some point we have to take a look to see what's good for everyone — tax payers, the agency, park users and the people of Rosedale," Ford said in a previous Bolivar Commercial story. "At some point you have to quit putting $1 million in a park that could flood again the next year."

Ford added another argument against opening the western portion is that data shows the services in that area only had a 2-3 percent usage rate.

"The items were historically not used that much," he said. "97 percent of the stuff was not even used and we were only getting about $1,000 a year from entrance fees."

He said an estimated cost to fix everything beyond the bridge is $1 million, and FEMA said it could only provide half of the costs.

"That means it would be $500,000 out of our pockets," said Ford.

For the meantime, Rosedale Mayor Carey Estes is looking forward to the immediate upgrades, as people from all over the country visit the park to get a glimpse of the Mighty Mississippi.

"I want to thank everyone here today for working to get this front half of the park up and running again so more people can come down and fish," said Estes. "I'm looking forward to following up on the other side of the bridge to get more activity going over there as well."

Estes hopes the park can one day develop into a hotspot for domestic and international tourists, and go back to being a part of everyday life for west side Bolivar Countians.