By Jack Gurner
It looked like old times as around 300 people gathered for a dedication ceremony last Thursday at the recently constructed Ford’s Well Recreation Area and Spyglass Hill Trail.
The new facility is located on the original site of the historic Ford’s Well. It includes a wrangler campground with 12 sites, gazebo, picnic shelter, comfort station, dump station, and a 17-mile multipurpose trail.
The project is a partnership between the U. S. Army Crops of Engineers, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and the Point Pleasant Trail Riders equestrian group.
Wayne Stogsdill, North Mississippi Lakes Project Manager for the Corps of Engineers, opened the ceremonies and welcomed the dignitaries and guests. He introduced Melvin Ford of Water Valley who gave the history of Ford’s Well and the Leggo Post Office.
Next to speak was Bob Tyler of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks who is also Executive Director of the Yalobusha Economic Development District. Funds for part of the project came through the MDWFP Federal Trail Program.
“The combination of this recreation area and that trail makes this one of the really outstanding outdoor recreational spots in the state of Mississippi,” Tyler said. “And, there are many of them over the 82 counties.”
Tyler emphasized the importance of everyone working together from the federal level down to the local to get projects like Ford’s Well accomplished. “This is tourism…this is economic development,” he said.
Following Tyler, Representative Tommy Reynolds began his comments by pointing out the natural beauty of the area. “What a wonderful view we have right here.”
“This project happened with a lot of people working together,” Reynolds said, reiterating Tyler’s comment on cooperation. “This is truly a partnership. When people work together, good things happen.”
He also praised both the Ford and Barton families for their contribution to the Ford’s Well project and their lifelong contributions to Yalobusha County.
“Teddy Roosevelt said that conservation is preserving the heritage of today for those who come tomorrow,” Reynolds added, quoting the staunch conservationist and former president. “The steps taken today will not only preserve the memories of the past but will help make memories for the future.”
The next speaker, Billy Samuels, Resource Manager of Enid Lake, explained that the project got started when Howard Barton contacted the Corps of Engineers about improving the trails around the lake for horseback riding. “We began to understand how large that user group really was.
First Wrangler Campsite
Samuels said he was proud of the fact that the facility is the first wrangler campsite in the district. But, it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Bob Tyler and the $100,000 grant from the federal trails program and the $10,000 grant from the Corps of Engineers Challenge Handshake Partnership Program. The later, he added, provided the seed money to get the other agencies interested in the project.
James Ross, Deputy Chief of Operations Vicksburg District Army Corps of Engineers, was next to speak. He described Enid and the other three North Mississippi lakes as jewels. “There are not many places in the United States of America that have four lakes like these plus all the surrounding land.
“Eight to ten million people visit these lakes per year.” He said and added that at Enid alone has1.5 million visitors.
Ross pointed out the importance of projects like Ford’s as a way to preserve history for future generations. “Our past helps us set direction for the future.”
Ross introduced Lieutenant Colonel Greg Raimondo, Deputy Commander of the Vicksburg District Army Corps of Engineers, a 23-year veteran who has served in Iraq.
Raimondo said it was his job to honor those who worked on the Ford’s Well project by presenting them with a Commander’s Coin for Excellence, a dog-tag shaped award decorated with the flags of the three states in the Crops district.
He presented to first to Melvin Ford for his historical presentation. The second went to Bob Tyler for helping obtain grant money for the project. The third was given to Representative Tommy Reynolds, in honor of all the elected officials who helped with the project. Additional coins were presented to Billy Samuels, Mike Robinson, and Wayne Sanders.
Raimondo then called Howard Barton to the front. “He’s the guy who came up with the project,” he said. “When people want stuff bad enough to go out and get it done themselves, that’s when you know it really something to be proud of.”
Raimondo challenged Barton and the equestrian club to help maintain the area. “Pass on taking care of this place. Keep this place as nice as it is now. We need your help.”
Barton was presented with the Commander’s Award for Public Service by Raimondo on behalf of Col. Michael Wehr, District Engineer for the Corps. In the citation, Barton was commended for his expertise in helping design the Spyglass Hill Trail.
The ceremony concluded with a ribbon cutting at the new gazebo that is located on the site of the original well.
Corps officials have indicated that there will be a phase two that will include placing a log cabin on the project along with other items authentic to the period.
The Ford’s Well Recreation Area is located on Yalobusha County Road 557 off Mississippi Highway 32.