Itta Bena and Leflore County officials are working to spruce up one of the town’s parks.
Jo Ann Purnell, while still on the city’s Board of Aldermen, reported last month that the city had received a grant from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program, which will enable the city to receive professional consultation on how to redevelop Sunflower Park, located along Sunflower Road.
The grant does not provide any financial assistance.
Purnell, the chairperson for the Leflore County Coalition, a group of city and county officials who work together to apply for grants, took charge on the project by applying for the grant with assistance from Mississippi State University’s AIM for CHangE (or Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health through Extension) program.
By September, Itta Bena should receive a consultant from the National Park Service’s pool of conservation and recreational planning experts, who will partner with the city of Itta Bena, the Leflore County Board of Supervisors and MSU’s AIM for CHangE on drafting a plan on how to redevelop Sunflower Park.
During a Thursday tour of the park, which is at least 10 acres in size and is owned by both the city and the county, Purnell listed the different ways it could be enhanced.
She pointed out the two baseball fields and the adjoining benches and concession stand, which could all be addressed.
She also wants to add more dirt for the playground areas, fix the pavilion and develop a football field and a parking lot as well as an outdoor walking trail. In addition, she would like picnic tables, garbage cans, grills and a water fountain to be installed.
“If they fix this, it’s going to be a nice area,” she said.
“I’m hoping the city can work with the community and whoever else would like to help us. That would be a major bridge for the community and Mississippi Valley State University.”
Redeveloping Sunflower Park would allow the university as well as residents to use it, Purnell said.
“I want to praise Ms. Purnell for getting the city the grant to start beautifying the city park,” Mayor Reginald Freeman said. “It is our plan to bring that park up to par for recreation for our Little League teams, football, baseball, softball or even kickball.”
The mayor added that the park, if redeveloped, could serve as a site for community events.
Leflore County District 4 Supervisor Eric Mitchell, whose district includes Itta Bena, said the Board of Supervisors had applied for a Land and Water Conservation grant offered through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks earlier this summer and is waiting to hear back.
Should the county receive the grant, which is up to $500,000 and requires the recipient to provide a 50/50 match, Mitchell said he would like to have the two baseball fields resurfaced, redo the bathrooms and create a football field as well as an outdoor walking track.
Mitchell said he also would like the board to apply for a Transportation Alternative Program grant offered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation to install sidewalks by the park along Sunflower Road, as well as overhead lighting, all the way to MVSU so Itta Bena residents can walk to Rice-Totten Stadium on football game days.
“We really want to liven that location of Itta Bena up, especially since it’s in close proximity with the university,” he said.
- Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.