Cossar Closing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cossar Park set to close its doors

By John Howell and Rupert Howell

George Payne Cossar State Park will close its doors October 31, employees learned in a meeting Friday.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) announced the decision Friday after its request for a reduction in force was approved Thursday by the Mississippi State Personnel Board. The announcement stated that the request was “based on a shortage of funds.”

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The reduction will also close the MDWFP district office at Enid Lake, MDWFP spokesman Jim Walker said.

But State Representative Warner McBride, whose district encompasses area nearby, said Monday it was too early to have a fire sale. He and Representative Tommy Reynolds, whose district encompasses area in both Yalobusha County where the park is located and adjacent Tallahatchie, worked together this weekend to find a solution to the park’s closing.

“We knew parks would be affected,” McBride said of ongoing budget cuts but added, “As far as I know, no one in the Legislature knew of this closing (until last Friday).”

McBride said he and Reynolds would meet with MDWFP Sam Polles Wednesday to talk about different options and the representatives of MDWFP were set to appear before the Legislative Budget Commission that afternoon, a meeting that hadn’t been scheduled until after the Cossar closing was announced.

McBride also stated that he and Reynolds were, “going to do everything  in our power to continue operation of our parks.”

The MDWFP announcement cited Cossar Park as sustaining the “largest sustained deficit.” Walker said that the park lost $300,000 last year and has experienced a 21 percent occupancy rate.

“Its a tough decision; we regret it; it’s just the times we live in,” Walker added.

“The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reduction in force affects 20 filled positions and ten vacant positions within George P. Cossar State Park,” at the Enid Lake District MDWFP office and at district offices in Meridian and Wiggins, Walker said. A central warehouse will also be closed, he said.

Eleven people from the park manager to housekeeping will lose their jobs at Cossar Park, he added. Four people will lose their jobs with the closing of the district offices, he said.

“We (MDWFP) took a 20 percent cut in Fiscal Year 2010; this has been a very, very difficult year,” Walker continued.

Employees who lose their jobs as a result of the reduction in force will have priority as other MDWFP jobs become open through attrition, he said.

The park has developed campsites, cabins, a group camp, restaurant, swimming pool, visitor/activity building, picnic areas with pavilions, a 2.5 mile nature trail, several playgrounds, and an 18-hole miniature golf course and an 18-hole Frisbee golf course among its attractions, according to its Web site.