September 21, 2012 11:22:43 AM
When sites were being considered in early 2009 for the then-proposed soccer complex, we argued on this page against selecting the Burns Bottom location. So many soccer parks are simply large swaths of fields with light poles, PVC goals and no trees. Worse yet, some of them have what appear to be miles of chain-link fence around them. We feared such a project stood a chance of being quite tacky, especially in light of the fact that Burns Bottom is at one of the primary entrances to our historic downtown.
The new soccer park is much more than we had anticipated.
The late Hattiesburg landscape architect Ed Blake prepared a visionary plan for the park. In his planning stages, Blake spent many hours walking the site, documenting the flora he found and noting exceptional features of the site. Rather than fighting flood-prone Moore's Creek by dredging or building huge levees, he embraced it, proposing a swamp area around the creek to help control the flooding. The renderings he displayed in his proposal showed the swamp dotted with cypress trees and accessible to the public by raised walkways.
As it is now, the network of raised walkways is limited to a path connecting the fields south of the creek to the fields north of the creek. We hope future funding can be made available to complete the other paths.
Visually, the site is interesting due to the multi-level design of the area around the Hitching Lot Farmers Market. The fields are made comfortable by an abundance of landscaping.
Since the site was initially selected, a path connecting the soccer park to the Riverwalk has been proposed. A Mississippi Department of Transportation grant is expected to pay for that feature.
The park is more than a series of soccer fields. It is a well conceived park that will not only be used during soccer games but also for other public events and for general enjoyment. It's easy to envision people flying kites, riding bikes, picnicking or getting together a pick-up game of football.
City and Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority employees are putting the finishing touches on the park as we go to press this morning. A grand opening ceremony with a parade of athletes is planned for tomorrow at 10 a.m. We hope to see you there.