Cossar State Park

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2010

The fate of George P. Cossar State Park remains uncertain following the announcement last week that the park would close on October 31. The park has been a popular destination since 1966, but state budget cuts prompted the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to take steps to close the facility. – Photo by Jack Gurner

Park closure delayed as local legislators work toward funds

By Rupert Howell

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) has delayed implementation of the Reduction-in-Force plan at George Payne Cossar Park it was revealed yesterday in a letter from Executive Director Dr. Sam Polles.

While employees and patrons where awaiting word whether Cossar Park would remain open, state Representatives Warner McBride and Tommy Reynolds have laid groundwork for funding requests concerning the park to get consideration in the next legislative session.

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Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks let it be known last month that a reduction in personnel was being requested through the state personnel board and singled out the closing of Cossar Park as a target. Cossar led other state parks with a $300,000 deficit in the state’s last fiscal year.

McBride and Reynolds, whose constituency is adjacent or encompasses the state park, located on Enid Lake, began fielding calls immediately. They have been working on a solution to keep the park open, including meeting recently with Polles.

McBride continued his optimisism on Thursday saying that he and Reynolds, “worked hard to make sure there will be a commitment from legislative leadership to try to make sure park funding would be addressed.”

The park was slated to be closed permanently on October 31. The decision was made public by that agency on Sept. 17. MDWFP officials cited financial woes as the driving factor in selecting Cossar out of the 25 state parks operated by the agency.

The issue has generated a ground-swell of support, with many citizens in nearby counties expressing dismay that the 44-year old facility would be closed. The park first opened in May, 1966 as Yocona Ridge State Park. In March, 1979, the park was renamed in honor of  longtime state legislator, the late George Payne Cossar Sr. of Charleston.

The Mississippi State Personnel Board on September 16 approved a request from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks for a reduction in force based on shortage of funds and work and a material change in duties and organization.

The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks reduction in force affects twenty filled positions and ten vacant positions within George P. Cossar State Park, Central Warehouse, District II, District IV, and District VI.

According to the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks (MDWFP), the agency has sustained a 31% reduction in funding since FY 2008 from its Legislative General Fund Appropriation, as well as an additional 5% cut as part of Governor Barbour’s FY 2010 budget reductions and a 6% reduction in Privilege Fees.