May 16, 2014 11:00:17 AM
A 5-acre city-owned parcel of land on The Island now has a name and a plan.
The city's proposed River Island Park project promises to add aesthetic enhancements to the land across the Old Tombigbee Bridge that deeded to the city of Columbus by Lowndes County last year.
A site improvement plan for the area west of the Tombigbee River includes the addition of a new beach front along the river, a sloped, handicap-accessible concrete ramp coming off the bridge and leading to the water's edge, a set of stairs also coming off the bridge joining the same walkway and a 10-foot-wide boardwalk that spans the length of the roughly-380-foot beach front.
Columbus councilmen approved setting the land aside as a Land and Water Conservation Fund site, thereby making it eligible for a grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. They also authorized city planner and grant administrator Christina Berry to apply for $61,450 in funding from MDWFP for its portion of the project, estimated to cost $122,900. The city could also elect to further reduce its cash outlay by providing for half of that sum a little more than $30,000, in in-kind services.
It is not known when the city would be notified whether it has been awarded the grant, and its match would come out of the 2014-15 fiscal year budget.
The site plan was drafted by Neel-Schaffer, a local firm the city partners with for engineering services. Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer said the purpose of developing the property in this way is to make it more appealing to a private developer pursuing a commercial or residential development on the remaining 5-acre-plus site.
"There is already somewhat of a beach there," Stafford said. "Because it's on the inside bend of the river, there is silt and sand that actually deposits in this area. It's not nice and clean like we picture when we say 'beach'. What this would do is put it into a state that is more user-friendly. The other conversation piece is to have a boardwalk at the top side of that beach so for (American Disabilities Act) purposes, you can come down and go along the boardwalk for those who can't actually go onto the beach." The site plan has the beach front extending roughly 380 feet.
In case MDWFP provides less than $61,450, the project is prioritized with the sloping sidewalk, staircase and beach front as the most necessary components.
Lowndes County supervisors donated the land to the city last November. The park is included in an urban renewal area, or area of underutilized and blighted properties that the city is currently forming an authority that would help redevelop and oversee.
Berry said half of the city's $61,450 match would have to be paid in cash but the remainder could be in the form of city crews doing some of the improvements.
"I think we have a good opportunity to get the funds," Berry said.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.