By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Baker Street Park is another step closer to reopening and volunteers hope to throw a party to celebrate.
The party is to recognize the accomplishment and thank all of those who participated, according to community volunteer Levert Hawkins, who has been involved since the beginning.
“I’m looking at August 8 as my projected date to reopen the park. That’s the Saturday before school starts on Monday,” said Hawkins who hopes to make the party a back to school event like those held in past years by the Yalobusha County Coalition.
A public hearing was held last Wednesday, July 22, in the boardroom at City Hall to inform the public of the status of the project. The hearing is a required part of the grant process, according to La’Keylah White, a planner with the North Central Planning and Development District.
In the hours leading up to the 4:30 p.m. hearing, Hawkins was at the park shoveling sand around playground equipment. “It’ll take us through next week to finish up what we got. We’re still waiting on a water fountain, too,” he said. “I think it will be far enough along that we can go ahead and open up on the eighth.”
White praised the efforts of Hawkins and the other volunteers who have spend many hours of their own time working in the park. “I just want to add that Levert has done an exceptional job with his time management and getting the project finished.”
The park renovation project began in late October of last year and was funded by a $97,779 Community Development Block Grant through the Mississippi Development Authority.
Those funds were matched locally by $48,241 in “cost savings” which included volunteer labor and donations. The volunteer work is part of a self-help program that encourages citizen participation and is a requirement of the MDA grant process.
The park renovation project began more than two years ago as a weekend clean-up project by Hawkins. He said that he wanted to fix up the park for the community’s young people. “If it is for the kids, I am all for it.”
Hawkins was able to interest city officials who helped get the ball rolling on the grant application. The park is located in the eastern part of the city and is bordered by Baker, Lee and Mills streets.