|Rendering of proposed rehabilitation to Smith Park|
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.JJ obtained a copy of the Smith Park plans and posted them below. Some highlights are:
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 Association. Rest of article.
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 The original design now looks outdated.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.