Olive Branch's 135-acre premier park is undergoing work on its lake, walking trails



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OLIVE BRANCH, Mississippi — Olive Branch's 135-acre premier park is undergoing work on its lake and walking trails, but city officials may spend millions of dollars more to broaden the park system's appeal.

Two of the most ambitious possibilities for City Park are an "all-inclusive playground" for children with special needs at a price tag of $750,000 and a 12-court tennis complex for $2.4 million.

What might have been out of reach any other time is now a possibility with $8 million in hand from the sale of general obligation bonds. But city officials still don't want to be spendthrifts.

At a meeting this week where parks director Will McNeer laid out all of the potential projects, Alderman Mark Aldridge, one of the trio on the bond committee, noted necessities as priorities.

The committee will be sending public safety expenditure recommendations to the Board of Aldermen but did not take action on the parks department requests. The committee may, however, take up the park system requests later.

McNeer has no problem with public safety going ahead of parks. But he also hopes parks will get some of the pie. He considers the park system a vital health and social component to a vibrant community.

"A good park system in a city is about the quality of life in a city," he said. "And it brings everybody together."

There are several parks and properties in Olive Branch's park system, but City Park is the largest. Its centerpiece could be considered its lake, which for years has been eroding the walking trail around it. A sea wall is being finished and the trail widened at a cost of about $200,000. Olive Branch got a grant for about half the cost.

The park also has three ball complexes. Complex A across from the lake and near the existing two-court tennis center was last renovated in 1994. There are six fields, but the bathrooms were built for a capacity of two fields. At any given night, 24 teams play at Complex A.

McNeer wants to demolish the concrete block building, replace lighting and build a new concessions building. It will cost about $1 million.

Then there's the playground, built in 1995. Part of the swing apparatus loosened and hit a child in the head some time ago.

While the playground is accessible, it isn't usable for all children with special needs. McNeer wants to see a place that any child, regardless of ability, can use all the equipment. That may take partnering with members of the community to raise donations.

A dog park may be on the way to the park. "Olive Bark" would be situated on four acres near the Goodman Road entrance to the park. Hollywood Feed has offered to pay $90,000 in construction costs over 10 years, officials said. The park would be gated and provide a water source. The mayor said the money could come from the general fund rather than from the bonds.

And then there's the tennis complex proposal.

McNeer said while Southaven has baseball wrapped up at Snowden Grove, Olive Branch could tap soccer and tennis aficionados. He proposed adding two soccer fields to the existing complex on Church Road and putting the new tennis complex beside it.

The bond committee is expected to meet again within the next few weeks to discuss the ideas.


Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

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