By Jason C. Mattox
Work on a small-scale skatepark at American Legion Park is just a starting point for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Aldermen recently voted to allow Mayor Jerry Autrey to spend just shy of $3,000 on materials and labor on the first phase of a skatepark.
City leaders had previously authorized the mayor $5,000 for the smaller park, but plans are moving forward for a larger facility.
“This is the initial park, and if there is good participation and management, we will further examine a larger park,” Autrey said.
The mayor said if and when the larger park is constructed, the smaller one can become a beginner’s park for younger skateboarders.
“We felt like it was important to get something started because we didn’t want the younger children to lose their interest,” he said.
Autrey said a location for the larger skatepark has not yet been determined despite meeting with Batesville Skatepark Committee president Emily Griste in recent months.
“We don’t know how big the scope of the larger park is going to be right now,” he said. “We know we want the location to be away from a busy street to allow users to walk to the park.
“We don’t want to have our children near a busy street where they might not be safe,” Autrey added.
Griste said the committee is seeking plans and specifications for the larger park.
“It’s going to take longer to get the concrete park done, so we wanted to get something done now for the kids,” she said. “The basketball court we are using now is 9,000 square feet, and it could easily house the concrete park and the other equipment.”
The mayor also added that the long-discussed walking trail adjacent to Trussell Park is closer to becoming a reality after the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks approved the $100,000 grant.
Autrey credited Parks Department Superintendent Robert Lightsey with helping the city with the grant.
“He went and met with people in Jackson and was a tremendous help in our securing the funding,” he said.
Autrey said the $100,000 grant will allow for a one mile walking trail, benches and possible playground equipment.
The mayor said he made contact with Mississippi Prison Industries during the Mississippi Municipal League meeting last week about benches and signage.
“They will be a good bit cheaper than other bidders, and that will allow us to spend the money in other areas,” he said.
Autrey added that the city is already looking at future expansion of the proposed park.
“We would like to include a small water toy park, basketball courts and a possible disc golf course,” he said. “Over time, we think this is going to be a real first-rate city park.”
Bids and specifications for the park are expected to be discussed during the meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen today.