Steve Mullen: By any name, a sweet park

May 12, 2010 10:51:00 AM

Steve Mullen - smullen@cdispatch.com

 

So what are we gonna call this thing? 

 

The first shiny new renderings of the park and soccer complex in Burns Bottom, created by the team of city planners who visited Columbus during Mississippi Main Street''s charrette process in September, put a new label on the area: Tan Yard Park. The vision for the 70 acres was part soccer fields, part natural habitat, connecting to downtown, with ample opportunity for development of downtown east of the park. 

 

The vision remains, solidified by work in months hence by Neel-Schaffer Inc. Engineer Randy Meador and noted Hattiesburg landscape architect Ed Blake. 

 

The name? Not so much. References to the name Tan Yard Park were stricken from the slide presentation during the planners'' public hearing on the park May 3. 

 

And that''s not a bad thing. 

 

That said, I like Tan Yard Park. As local historian Rufus Ward noted in his column a few Sundays ago, a tanyard was located in Burns Bottom at the site of the park, making it Columbus'' first industrial area. By all accounts, tanning was a messy, stinky affair. Animal carcasses were left to soak in chemical vats, separating hair and fat (and whatever else) from the hide. This is gross. Burns Bottom was Columbus'' original Place You Didn''t Want to Go. 

 

Tying the history of the place into the name, and turning it on its head, seems fitting. The most noxious part of town a couple centuries ago is now its most beautiful. Poetic. 

 

Another suggestion bandied about is Moore''s Creek Park, after the creek than runs through it. This seems a good enough name too, especially considering the architects'' scheme to locate gathering areas of the park along the meandering creek. 

 

Of course, some point out that the place already has a name: Burns Bottom. The word "bottom" is unappetizing. Any chance you have to strike "bottom" from the record, you should do that. 

 

The Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority has final say over the name. This is clearly a golden opportunity for the authority to throw the naming open to the public, with some sort of contest. It would only draw more attention to the park plan, and give all of us more of an ownership stake in what''s about to unfold. (In the meantime, we''re running a poll with a few name choices at cdispatch.com.) 

 

Whatever the final name, folks are gonna call it what they''re gonna call it anyway. That''s our way. I still hear people refer to Mississippi University for Women as "MSCW." That''s one whole name ago, almost two. 

 

The name is the icing on this cake, regardless of what''s chosen. The important thing here is that plans are moving along, the park is happening, and planners say soccer fields will be ready for play in Fall 2011. 

 

No matter the name, the park will smell as sweet.

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.