SMITH PARK RENOVATIONS IN CLEANUP PHASE; FENCES REMAINING UP TILL FINISHBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Smith Park likely won’t be reopened for another month, but downtown officials say the wait will be well worth it once they see the improvements.
Last week, the large construction fences still blocked off the downtown Jackson destination.
However, much work had been completed to transform the park into a premier green space.
“It’s looking great,” Downtown Jackson Partners (DJP) President Ben Allen said. “It’s not finished yet and we have some cleanup work to do. But we’ve gotten rid of the concrete ditches, it’s sodded and it’s going to be gorgeous.”
The fences will remain in place throughout the cleanup phase to allow the sod to settle in place, and to prevent foot traffic from damaging it during the wet weather.
“We put sod on mud and if they walk on it, it will tear it all up,” he said. “It will take a little drier weather and we will open it up.
“We don’t want to ruin what we’ve done to save a week,” he said.
Renovations are part of the second phase of improvements at the downtown park. The work got under way late last year.
The project called for removing the park’s water feature that ran along the park’s Amite Street border, filling in the area and adding new sod.
The water feature was designed to resemble a river running along the park from East Amite Street to North Congress Street.
However, the feature had been inoperable for years and fell into disrepair because of high upkeep costs. Before it was removed, leaves and other debris lined the bed. In some spots, plants had begun growing through cracks in the pavement.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) approved removing the feature, as long as trees and other historic structures in the park were not affected.
MDAH had to sign off on the work, because the park is a designated Mississippi landmark. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Smith Park is the last remaining portion of the (development plan put in place) when Jackson was developed,” MDAH Historic Preservation Director Jim Woodrick told the Sun previously.
The city’s initial grid system was laid out by Peter Van Dorn, one of the city’s founders, decades before the Civil War. The system was based on the layout of Savannah, Ga., and included a number of public green spaces, Woodrick said.
Doc Martin was hired as the contractor. Dave Fulgham, a tree preservationist, was brought on to ensure that none of the park’s trees were harmed during construction.
The second phase cost approximately $100,000.