Sardis Lake

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A gate prohibits vehicle traffic from proceeding down 4-H Club Road at Sardis Lake, and a sign posted by the City of Sardis goes farther, apparently prohibiting any entry at all onto the land. The Panolian photos by Billy Davis

A sign tacked to a tree declares 1,000 acres leased by the City of Sardis off limits to public access.

Police: Sardis Lake property off limits to public

By Billy Davis

Federal property at Sardis Lake, currently leased to the City of Sardis for a marina, should be open to the public, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

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But yellow “Posted” signs indicate that the City considers the 1,000-acre property off limits, apparently even to foot traffic, on the Corps land.

“Hunting, fishing, trapping, or trespassing for any purpose is strictly forbidden,” read a pair of signs posted on 4-H Club Road, located south of the Upper Lake.

“The public can access the land,” Frank Worley, a Corps public affairs official, said of the apparent issue of the leased land.

He then added a “caveat” to be considered, issues of “safety, security, and health,” that are considered with restricting the public’s access around the lake.

Worley was contacted by The Panolian after the newspaper received a complaint of the restricted access.

Worley, who is based at the Vicksburg District headquarters, acted as a liaison for local Corps officials after fielding the newspaper’s phone call.

According to Sardis Police Chief John Still, hunting and ATV riding are off limits, though he was unsure about allowing foot traffic.

“Until we get a better definition from the Corps, we’re treating it as no trespassing whatsoever,” said Still.

4-H Club Road, best known as the location of Sardis Lake Christian Camp, meanders through hardwood trees until it splits into a second unnamed road that loops south toward Thompson Creek. Shortly after the road splits, a metal gate across the road restricts further vehicle access.

A sign on the gate reads, “Keep out, area leased by the City of Sardis.”

Worley, after conferring with Corps officials, said the City of Sardis erected the gate on 4-H Club Road for “health and safety reasons.”

The City’s action is repeated farther on Black Jack Road, where more yellow signs and a second gate restrict access to Hip’s Hollow, an area known by fishermen for its secluded pond. 

Deer hunter Brad Parsley told The Panolian last week that his automobile had been towed from 4-H Club Road even after he had parked across the road from the leased property. He had been hunting on legal hunting property, located in the Thompson Creek area, on January 2.

“I came out of the woods and called 911. I thought it was stolen,” he said.

Parsley said he had to convince a tow truck operator to return the vehicle and refused to pay $60 to get it returned. He also said he later told Still that he had not trespassed or done anything illegal.

“I still don’t know who had it towed. Nobody seemed to know,” he said.

Still called Parsley’s towed vehicle a “misunderstanding” that was resolved.

Fielding a second question from the newspaper, Worley also confirmed via local Corps officials that timber had been illegally cut on the leased property, and the Corps is investigating the matter.

Sardis Alderman Rufus Smith confirmed last Friday to The Panolian that he “took a few sticks” and called that action a “misunderstanding” that has since been resolved.

Worley did not say if Smith was the cause of the investigation.