Parham Bridges Park promises to be a busy place in the coming weeks, with nearly $400,000 in improvements and additions planned for the popular Northside facility.
Among upgrades, the city of Jackson is planning to spend $250,000 to install a new children’s splash pad at the park playground and another $27,000 to add rubberized surfacing under the park’s play area.
And next week, Parks and Recreation is expected to take a $115,000 contract proposal to the Jackson City Council to build the park’s long-awaited new entrance.
“We’ve already opened packets and have a group that won the bid, but it has to go to the council,” said Parks Director Ison Harris.
If the contract is approved, contractors would have between 90 and 120 days to complete the work. “The only think that would affect us getting it done over the next two to three months is the weather,” he said.
The new entrance is the first phase of upgrades designed to improve patron access to the park and make Parham Bridges more competitive with other tennis centers in the area.
The entrance will be built at 4950 Old Canton Rd., at the site of a former Jackson Police Department substation. The station was torn down in 2017 by local nonprofit Revitalize Mississippi free of charge, after being closed and in a state of disrepair for years.
Hemphill Construction was awarded a $98,000 contract to build the entrance. Work was expected to begin in early 2018.
However, crews couldn’t get started until the substation’s concrete slab was removed. By the time the slab was removed, Hemphill’s contract had expired and the cost of concrete had risen so much that the project had to be rebid under state statute.
State law requires that projects have to be re-bid if costs increase by more than 15 percent. Based on new concrete prices, Hemphill’s new contract would by more than 20 percent.
The project was re-bid earlier this year and new bids were open in early March. Two firms submitted proposals, the lowest of which was for $115,000, Harris said.
Managers of the Parham Bridges Tennis Center want to add an additional four courts to help bring in larger tournaments. The new entrance also will improve traffic flow in and out of the park.
The current entrance is located in the 5000 block of Old Canton Road, after the street turns east.
There, Old Canton averages about 19,000 vehicles a day, compared to 12,000 vehicles that travel in front of the old substation, according to Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) traffic count maps.
The project is being paid for with a combination of city dollars and a $15,000 grant from the LeFleur East Foundation.
“We are excited for the residents, the businesses and the entire community,” said Stacey Jordan, executive director of the LeFleur East Foundation. “We couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Jordan said LeFleur East will do whatever it can to help push through the projects and said two local donors are stepping up to help beautify the park in other ways. One area business has agreed to pressure wash the Parham Bridges sign at the corner of Old Canton and Ridgewood Road, while another has agreed to paint it.
Meanwhile, the city hopes to bring on a firm to install the new rubberized playground surface in the next two months.
“We’re ready to do the bids and get the specs out there in the next month or so,” Harris said. “We should be able to have it done by the summer. The cool part about it is (the installation) will coincide with the splash pad being built.”
The new surfacing is being paid for with general fund savings generated by the parks department since Harris took over as executive director. It was one of 25 parks projects approved by the council at its March 19 meeting.
In all, about $927,000 in work was approved.
Right now, the city uses mulch for its playground surface, and has to add new surfacing every time it rains.
“We’re chasing ourselves to make sure we have ground surface out there,” Harris said. “This doesn’t wash away and has a fall rating, so if kids fall, they fall on rubber.
“It saves the city money and modernizes the playground.”
Bids for the new 5,000-square-foot splash pad were expected to be open this week. “The goal is to have it bid, awarded and built by early June,” Harris said.
The feature will be located behind the current playground and is being built in part to cut down on pool maintenance costs.
“Pools are such a liability and expense. Kids will still get to have some fun and play in the water,” he explained. “It’s just a lot safer.”
Parham Bridges is bordered by Old Canton to the north and west and Ridgewood Road to the east. A second entrance to the park is located along Ridgewood next to the playground.
A new sidewalk is currently being built along Ridgewood in front of the play area.