Renovations to happen at River Park
by Rory Doyle
May 02, 2013 | 1159 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two years after the historic flooding of the Mississippi River, Rosedale's Great River Road State Park is still not back to normal.

Lying between the levee system and the Mississippi, the park had been a hot spot for both domestic and international tourists, as well as a part of everyday life for many Bolivar Countians living on the west side.

It is the only public park in the county providing access directly to the mighty river's banks.

Ramie Ford, director of Mississippi State Parks, said there have been many challenges since the flood but exciting renovations will soon begin.

"We will be upgrading the day use area," said Ford, referring the first section of the park east of the initial bridge. "The contractor has been selected and we've issued the notice to proceed."

Ford 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.

Work will begin as soon as the rainy weather breaks.

"It's going to be a great day use park," added Ford. "We think this is the better bang for everyone's buck."

The western riverbank portion of the park "will remain closed until further notice."

Ford said it's been difficult justifying renovations past the bridge considering major flooding could reoccur on any given year.

"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," he said.

"At some point you have to quit putting $1 million in a park that could flood again the next year."

The focal point in the western portion of the park was a 75-foot high overlook tower, which provided a panoramic view of the river. Beneath the tower was also a popular picnic spot, disc golf course and nearby camping sites.

Ford said the Mississippi Legislature appropriated $120,000 for tower repairs, which will be available July 1 when the budget cycle begins.

"The tower will eventually be available for river viewing on a scheduled basis for groups," Ford said, referring to chamber of commerce groups, governments and some tour groups. "It may take some time before we get to that point and it won't be open all day every day."

Ford added another argument against opening the western portion is that data showed 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.