At the West Jackson Street gateway and a few steps away from the parking lot, one may almost forget that he or she is close to a major interstate and within the Ridgeland city limits.
Wildflower blooms reach several feet into the air, and when walking along the trails that wind through the field, the sounds of the city are replaced with the sounds of nature. Brilliant colors, hundreds of butterflies and local art have added to the beauty of the three-acre meadow.
The wildflower field is part of Keep Ridgeland Beautiful’s Wildflower Trails of Mississippi. The program, started by Keep Mississippi Beautiful, was created to enhance communities and natural areas across the state.
Keep Ridgeland Beautiful brought the wildflower project to the West Jackson Street site three years ago with wildflower seed provided by the program. However, over time, Keep Ridgeland Beautiful Chairperson Jan Richardson said the wildflowers stopped reseeding themselves.
In Ridgeland, the pandemic allowed for additional time for Keep Ridgeland Beautiful members to upgrade the already beautiful space. Since March, they have added berms featuring sculptures by artist Harry Day and a maze of trails leading from berm to berm.
In addition to the wildflower seeds from Wildflower Trails of Mississippi, plant and bulb donations were gifted for the project from residents who were splitting them this spring.
A previously unused bench was brought in and now sits at the entrance of one of the trails surrounded by flowers that were donated and planted by students from Ridgeland High School.
Along the trails and installed on the berms, Day’s sculptures depict activities that residents in Ridgeland enjoy, from baseball to walking with dogs to cycling.
Ridgeland Recreation and Parks staff member Tim Taylor drew up the plan for the space. In addition to planning the design, Taylor also cut the trails and installed the sculptures.
In the center of the field, the trails lead to a large sign featuring the city logo carved into it alongside Day’s sculptures.
This year, the dominant flowers are sulfur cosmos. Other species featured in the field include lance leaved coreopsis, black-eyed susans, indian blanket, clasping coneflower and California giant zinnia mix.
In addition to the flowers, a variety of bushes and trees were planted on the berms by Keep Ridgeland Beautiful and Parks and Recreation employees, including drift roses, magnolias, crepe myrtles and some perennials like cannas lilly, gladiola, purple heart and lantana.
“We will plant some hydrangeas on the bank and will replant the field next spring,” Richardson said. “There is enough permanent structure and plants that it should be inviting to visit year round. It’s a great play to bird watch and identify pollinators in action.”
Richardson said Keep Ridgeland Beautiful is always looking for flower donations to add to the field. She mentioned daylilies, hydrangeas, Oak Leaf hydrangeas and tiger lilies in particular. They are also hoping a resident who may have an old jon boat they aren’t using might consider donating it to be part of a sculpture for the wildflower field. The plan is to create a sculpture depicting another passtime: fishing.
Residents are invited to walk the trails, enjoy the views and take photographs. Cutting flowers is not allowed. However, residents are welcome to cut blooms at the other wildflower field located along Highway 51 in front of the city center site.
The Keep Ridgeland Beautiful committee members are Rachel Bradley, Rachel Collier, Ginger Cocke, Barbara Hunter, Claire Jackson, Lea Anne Stacey, Phyllis Parker, Polly Hammett and Jan Richardson.
Richardson said Ridgeland Public Works Director Mike McCollum, Parks and Recreation Director John North, Mayor Gene McGee, the board of aldermen, Keep Mississippi Beautiful member Sarah Kountouris, Karen McKie and the Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce also played a role in the success of the project.