Mild conditions outside are attracting more people to Meridian parks. This week's spring break led to an increase in patrons. Park officials are optimistic that the increase will continue throughout the summer, despite budget constraints.
'We didn't get the big, big increase, but on the flip side we haven't had a huge decrease.'
Parks and Recreation director, Mark Naylor says although there's no extra money to add programs, there's enough to sustain. This means no programs will have to be cut, but some projects in the works will be delayed.
For example, Phil Hardin Park is 37-years-old. Park officials say it has served its purpose, but there's now a dire need for new baseball fields. For more than a year city officials have been examining ways to develop new fields. The problem is money.
"We've been looking at some land,' says Naylor. 'We've looked at three or four sites out on the interstate or at different places. We haven't really inked a deal on purchasing land and then trying to find out who's going to help us find it because it's one thing to buy the land and it's another to build a $6 million or $7 million complex."
There are also efforts underway to improve Meridian's soccer program. Last spring the city council approved the leasing of fifty additional acres from East Mississippi State Hospital behind the Jaycees Soccer Complex. Naylor estimates that it will take between $2 and $3 million to develop that area into four large soccer fields with an additional concession stand and parking lot.
'These kind of things and the baseball complex are going to have to be funded by a big special project like a bond issue, which we can't talk about because it's hard to pass a bond issue,' says Naylor. 'The talk all over the state is a food and beverage tax because with that everybody pays.'
Meanwhile, Naylor is hopeful that work on that proposed new baseball complex will start within the next two years.
Meridian's Park and Recreation Department has 9 baseball fields, 8 softball fields, 14 soccer fields, 18 tennis courts and 6 basketball courts.