Thursday, November 17, 2016

Shaping up Smith Park


Rendering of proposed rehabilitation to Smith Park
What was once beautiful island of greenery in downtown Jackson became an urban eyesore.  However, there is hope for Smith Park as the downtown business community is putting a plan to renovate Smith Park into action.  Anna Wolfe reported earlier this week in the Clarion-Ledger:


Agencies involved in the major renovation of downtown Jackson's Smith Park hope the change will turn the "rundown," "overgrown" and "uncomfortable" park into a place residents actually want to visit.

The concept rendering shows an open green space with bisecting sidewalks and large trees surrounding the city block. On Nov. 5, crews cut several mostly dying trees, beginning the first phase of the Downtown Jackson Partners park renovation. With help from community group Friends of Smith Park, DJP has been working on this proposal for at least three years.

An Oct. 12 memo from the Jackson Department of Parks and Recreations gave DJP "permission to clean, prune limbs, etc., at Smith Park."...



Smith Park in its current state before the trees were removed.


When experts examined the park, Allen said, they determined that of the roughly 80 trees in the park, only 17 were totally healthy. DJP allocated $25,000 for the initial clearing, which included chopping down 32 trees.

Smith Park, 15 years older than Central Park in New York, is one of the oldest parks in the United States that is still continuously used, according to DJP. The park is a contributing property to the Smith Park Architectural District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

DJP did not, however, include preservation agencies like the Mississippi Department of Archives and History when creating its plans. Emails between Allen and Philip L. Walker of Nashville's The Walker Collaborative from 2014 show officials may not have found it necessary to include oversight agencies because the park had already been renovated in the early 1970s.

"We’re not talking about trees that were 100, 150, 200 years old," said Michael Rejebian, president of Jackson’s Downtown Neighborhood AssociationRest of article.
JJ obtained a copy of the Smith Park plans and posted them below.  Some highlights are:

Now over forty years old, Smith Park is showing its age. The original design now looks outdated. Smith Park was designed to imitate a botanical garden with meandering paths alongside winding streams of water. The park was a private area where people could withdraw from the city around them. Over the years many of the trees have reached the end of their lifecycle and the hardscape and furnishings have deteriorated. The water features have proved too expensive to maintain and therefore fail to function most of the time. Smith Park is truly an eyesore for downtown Jackson and the Mississippi Capitol Complex....

It will cost approximately $2,500,000 to transform Smith Park into a world-class public space to the benefit of all Mississippians who live in and visit our capital city. Once funded this project can move forward and be completed within 9 to 12 months....

Though small by comparison, this 2.4-acre plot just north of the Governor’s Mansion has its roots in the ideas of Thomas Jefferson. The original plan for the capital city of Jackson, as drawn by attorney Peter Van Dorn in 1822, was based on Jefferson’s concept of leaving alternate blocks as undeveloped woodland so that all developed blocks faced woods on each side. Through the years all but one mapped lot was sold and developed. Today Smith Park is the only surviving square from that original city plan.....

Read the plans for yourself in the brochure posted below. 

Kingfish note: To say Smith Park has become an eyesore is an understatement.  The park is literally overrun with the homeless.  Galloway provides food to the homeless.  They go to the church to get fed and then hang out in the park all day.  Some of them are people who are truly down on their luck, others are mentally ill.  Needless to say, few people who are not in one of these two categories visit the park.

Many things are two-edged swords and the park was no exception.  The homeless congregating at Smith Park meant they weren't meandering around downtown harassing people and businesses.  The homeless have dispersed since the trees were chopped down and are back to walking around doing their thing- much to the discomfort of others. 

What is the answer to this problem? Good question and I'm open to suggestions.  Maybe another green space should be created with some cover and a public restroom that is locked up at sundown.  There are plenty of blighted properties on the edge of downtown that could be converted to such a use.  The people who complain about them should realize that they need a place to go to and  moving them along won't solve the problem.  


35 comments:

Anonymous said...

The rendering is interesting in that there probably are not that many people working downtown as are in the park.

PittPanther said...

I can't believe you're actually floating the idea that Jackson should build another park, dedicated for the homeless? I think not!

If Galloway is contributing to the homeless problem by feeding them, then Galloway should contribute to housing them as well. Open the sanctuary 24x7 for the homeless.

Why are the homeless congregating in Jackson? How about we get a van and start dropping them off in Madison, Clinton, and Brandon? They have perfectly good parks that are unused all day. Let's drop a few at Liberty Park and Winners Circle Park, and see just how charitable our neighbors are.

Anonymous said...

I recently overheard some people that were staying in the convention center hotel, but were exhausted from walking through the congestion of the Farish St. Entertainment District, wish they had some green space to withdraw to. I told them that the boat ride from downtown to Harbor Walk might be relaxing. If only the park had been done by then, we might not miss out on their future vacation dollars :(

Anonymous said...

11:53, ever think that maybe the homeless are gathering in a park in Jackson because they are from Jackson? You could bus them to another city but they would be back in Jackson in a very short time.
They gather in Jackson because of the lax laws. Jackson cops are not going to do anything about them as the city or the cops cannot make any money off them.

Burke said...

Gee, 11:53, I see that you are filled with the milk and warmth of human kindness.

I support an alternative site: the grounds of the Capitol. If not that, then Poindexter or another park such as KF suggests. I do wonder what would happen if Galloway moved its mission. But at this point I'm only wondering, and not having to struggle with facts.

Glad we still have Ms. Wolfe.

Anonymous said...

Why don't all these churches and groups who feed and clothe the homeless, get together and buy some of the empty houses downtown, fix them up, and put the homeless there. They could form a separate charity for it, and run it as a business. The homeless would be required to keep up the property or move out.Then instead of feeding them, they use that money and deliver food to them at the houses.

A Galloway member said...

The homeless hung out downtown and at Smith Park long before Galloway took them in and started feeding, sheltering and counseling them. Yes, they do more than just feed them and we've had several success stories come out of this ministry. I sure do miss that view of Smith Park and St. Peter's from my former office window. Not much too see from the 2nd floor in the Township.

Kingfish said...

Thank goodness MDAH was kept out of it. It would take 20 years to finish and they would screw it up.

Anonymous said...

Probably not a State Capital in this nation that doesn't have more than its share of homeless. Comes with the territory and a refurbed park won't change the dynamic.

Anonymous said...

The homeless should be ferried straight into Legislative Chambers to sit on the floor until the State Legislature adequately funds mental health. That, our send them on a rotating basis to Main Streets in each of the various senators' and representatives' districts.

Anonymous said...

Many homeless end up downtown because of the bus station/train depot. They either arrive there or are dropped off there and have no where else to go.

Being homeless should not be illegal. For those down on their luck, there are transitional housing programs that have proven successful around the country. We just need the courage to do it here. http://www.npr.org/2015/12/10/459100751/utah-reduced-chronic-homelessness-by-91-percent-heres-how

The mentally ill should be housed in appropriate housing. But as long as we don't provide the funds, either through religious, civic or governmental means, that is not going to happen. Providing lunch once a week makes us feel good, but is insufficient. And we are closing mental health facilities throughout the state.

Anonymous said...

Can we get the Jackson Progressives involved? They've done wonders for our city and are probably only waiting to be asked to fix this problem too!

Anonymous said...

Love the concept. Something really needs to be done to clean up that park as it can be put to good use.

Plenty of places on Mill street for a feeding shelter just a few blocks away.

Anonymous said...

Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, said at the press conference that he has seen figures showing that, with all the residential development downtown in the form of loft apartments and condos, that in 10 years there could be as many as 25,000 people living downtown, tripling traffic on Pearl Street and Pascagoula Street.
-- Mississippi Business Journal
-- March 3, 2008

Seventeen Blues Clubs!!!!! said...

This is a good idea. But to really make it work, we should build some brick sidewalks and some benches, then get some blues clubs in there. I'd say we could squeeze about...oh say seventeen around the edges.

We can start with a brand new BB King's just across from St. Peter's Cathedral.

Anonymous said...

1:47 Yeah, we heard that some few years ago. Where are the peeps?

Anonymous said...

I love this concept. Thank you for posting. Apparently, a lot of work has been done on this and it will really open up the park for real use.

Anonymous said...

1:15 - nice pitch, but it is nothing more than repeating Jim (the) Hood's b/s. MS spends more per capita on mental health than any adjoining state - it might be a question on how they spend it but its not the total. Check the personnel statistics - over the decades from mid-80's to mid 00's, Mental Health grew faster by multiples over other state agencies. Everybody's mama, aunt, sister, etc was hired under the old long-time director and therefore grew his turf into the largest in the state.

mbrookes said...

I can understand cutting down the dead or dying trees, but why not replace them with other trees? The drawing of the proposed park is just ugly. Are they tearing down the historic pavilion? Is it to be torn down, even though it was built by the WPA? I loved the water feature, but I can understand why it needs to be filled in. I do not understand why there was no public input. What can concerned people do now? Who do we contact?

I was there... said...

3:40 there were 4 publicly advertised charrettes/meetings regarding this project. I was at 2 of them. The pavilion is staying along with 2 other historical landmarks. Did you even read the article or are you here just to complain? Trees will be planted and governments were consulted.

I live downtown and I have heard no complaints from downtowners. I know that this comment will generate a lot of traffic from people who claim they live here but don't but so be it. Get involved with the "Friends of Smith Park" if you really want to help or be heard.

After the "Team JXN" public rollout (advertised and I was there) at "The Manship" over a year ago, this concept was unanimously endorsed by this ad hoc group and 80 people (give or take) joined the FOSP initiative.

Anonymous said...

Personally I think the Law School should be converted to a homeless shelter all the law students are going to be broke n a few years anyways, they won't even have to leave the school. Even the Professors look homeless!

Anonymous said...

Mental health hospitals, out of county law enforcement agencies and jails, institutions drop their releases off at the bus station on a regular basis usually late at night in unmarked vehicles. Ask the security at the bus station. Its been going on for years. So that provides a fresh population of the homeless,the mentally ill, the chemically dependent and just criminals to the downtown mix on a constant basis. Some need and deserve a hand. Some just want to work the system and get high. No one wants to address this issue in a concrete decisive manner so it will not be going away.

Spots A Stupid Jackass.. said...

Once again the Pitiful Panther shows his stripes. I think I am quoting this fool correctly, as follows:

"If Galloway is feeding them, then Galloway should contribute to housing them as well."

Where does this Yankee-jackass get that convoluted logic?

So, using this twerp's thought process, if I donate a mattress to the Salvation Army, I am obligated also to provide a bed.

I have finally decided this Pitt character sits there popping pimples and posting stupid shit just to get a rise out of sensible people.

Kain't We Jess Get Along, Willem?.. said...

Where is Willem Wintor? He used to be busy hammering and hauling paint for people who had never done anything but ride in the wagon? Get his ass off the Gallo show and let him open his estate to the homeless.

Otherwise, I think it's a great idea to refurbish this place for people to enjoy who actually pay taxes and pull the wagon. But, that will never happen.

Anonymous said...

4:38, the first one, seems to know more about the subject than anyone who has posted. 4:39 also seems to know more than most.
People who do not live in the city should not have any say on what happens to the park. I know this is hard for some people to understand.

Anonymous said...

Hey, "I was there," perhaps the response that all the downtown apartment dwellers discussed and made a decision and the rest of y'all can pound sand argument might be part of why y'all are getting a smidge of push back?

Contrary to your prediction, I'm not going to claim that I live in downtown. I do, however, live in this city and hope that I have a say in what happens to a section of the oldest part of Jackson. And, perhaps we can both agree, after the abomination that is the Capitol Street, roundabout, goat rope...which I'm sure was well advertised and well attended by the same folks too busy to spell Jackson vice some phonetic twitter handle might handle this just as poorly.

Many of our biggest failures downtown are because they were planned in these same echo chambers by these same tired opinions.

Anonymous said...

If I were going to revamp one of the oldest city parks, I would at least use some symmetry in the sidewalk layout. Oh well.

I was there... said...

6:13. @4:38 here. The sidewalks are as featured as they replicate the original,historical design before the park was butchered in 1972.

Anonymous said...

I see NO answer to the problem !

Anonymous said...

So, the OLD ugly Modern garbage is being replaced by NEW ugly Modern garbage. The water features were too much trouble for the lazy city workers to keep clean. And somebody's getting kickbacks for doling out tree-cutting work to cronies. So, just as the trees finally are big enough to soften the ugliness of the old Modern design (providing nice views from neighboring buildings, and shelter for the unfortunate portion of the populace who need it most), the trees get cut down, and Jackson gets yet another ugly, sweltering, expanse of grass.

Anonymous said...

The homeless will relocate to Laurel Park in Bellhaven, or at least the woods adjacent to that area.

If you want to see this vibrant, hobo shanty area just pay a visit. Head east past laurel park, under the interstate and follow the dirt road off to right into the woods, then follow the trails to the left lead to the river.

I wonder how many people who live in bellhaven know of this area?

Anonymous said...

Well said 7:28. I was thinking the same thing.

Anonymous said...

"Head east past laurel park, under the interstate and follow the dirt road off to right into the woods, then follow the trails to the left lead to the river. I wonder how many people who live in bellhaven know of this area?"

Will you be conducting tours?

Anonymous said...

1:23 Jackson Progressives? Will any of them ever be sober enough to think about the homeless? Just another bunch of kids who party on donated funds. Ridiculous!!

Jesse Yancy said...

This is just another useless attempt to redo Downtown Jackson and make money for John Ditto and Ben Allen. Wake up, Jackson, you're being screwed again.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


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