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Jackon, MS, Moves Closer to Development of Park

Thu November 13, 2003 - National Edition

JACKSON, MS (AP) Jackson is a step closer to developing a park on the banks of the Pearl River after a decision by city leaders to hire architects to draw plans to clean up the site contaminated with arsenic, lead and petroleum.

Festival Park is expected to be located on a 43-acre (17.4 ha) site along the river near downtown Jackson.

Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. has said the city’s first riverfront park could draw festivals and concerts. An amphitheater, retail space, nature center and pavilion have been suggested.

"We’ve thought for some time that it’s a great opportunity for the citizens to develop that resource," Councilman Bo Brown said.

The city has used the site as a landfill, a refueling station and an asphalt plant. Decades after those operations closed, chemicals used by the facilities remain buried.

The City Council approved a $284,000 contract Tuesday with architects Cook, Douglas, Farr and Lemon of Jackson to design plans to eliminate trace amounts of the chemicals.

The project has $1.5 million in federal grants for cleanup and construction.

Downtown Jackson needs a site like Festival Park, said Avery Rollins, policy adviser of the Environmental Coalition of Mississippi. The park would offer children a closer look at nature along the river, especially if it featured a nature center.

"Jackson is unique in that it’s got these natural wetland areas, and there are very few capital cities that have wetlands like that," Rollins said.

Work to remove chemicals could begin in July 2004, said LaVonne McGee, director of the city’s brownfield initiative. Brownfield sites are unused or abandoned commercial or industrial sites where redevelopment is hampered by environmental problems.

Once the chemicals are removed, park construction could begin immediately, McGee said. The park could be completed by 2005.