State park upgrades on horizon
By Bob Arnold
Lake Lincoln State Park may have seen the early fruits of new funding that the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) can tap to upgrade state parks and a WDWFP five-year strategic plan that, among other things, addresses needs of parks, which have suffered from lack of sufficient funds for maintenance and improvements.
Last month for a full week, a MDWFP deployment team visited the Lake Lincoln, primarily focusing on overgrown vegetation and foliage that has become a problem throughout the state park system. The three-person team, including Park Administrator Cary Spence, Toney Fleming, Director of Park Operations; and Zach Watts, a construction project assistant; along with volunteers from area high schools and Co-Lin “delimbed” trees and bushes that were blocking views of the park’s lake front and managed controlled burns to eliminate growth on the park’s forest floor that chokes off new plants, stresses established plants and trees, reduces food and shelter options of animal populations and can fuel wildfires. The team and volunteers also cleaned and upgraded cottages in the park, installing a ramp for disabled persons and repairing hand rails.
In recent months, similar work has helped Percy Quinn and Roosevelt State Parks catch up on maintenance, and the team’s next stop is Waldoxie State Park. WDWFP’s Andere Hollis and Brian Ferguson are organizing the deployment teams.
Mississippi has 25 state parks with varying needs for maintenance and amenities. While the deployment teams are not new, their visits have been few and far between due to lack of resources. But a new funding mechanism and a five-year WDWFP strategic plan promise to change things in the parks. Capital improvements as well as maintenance assistance are also on the horizon.
Following the 2022 state legislative session, Governor Tate Reeves signed into law a bill that created the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund for appropriation of funds to improve the Mississippi outdoors. The fund to which the legislature can designate funds as it sees fit, has a $20 million cap, excluding federal funds, with a seven-member board appointed by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to oversee their distribution. Among other things, MDWFP can draw on the fund to improve state park outdoor recreation features and trails.
To carry on its work in the broad area for which it is responsible, WDWFP is also looking to a strategic plan that recognizes “state parks are not being full utilized” and calls for:
Public surveys to identify amenities desired in the parks.
Expanding community involvement through Friends of the Park groups working with management of the individual parks to address needs, help plan and implement community-oriented events and establish new amenities.
Partnering with other state bureaus and agencies and local organizations to identify and utilize historical, natural and other resources.
A multi-media marketing program to increase awareness of parks and the recreational opportunities they offer.
Generating federal funds to augment state resources.
Follow Mississippi State Parks on Facebook for information about the state park system.