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By NATHAN GREGORY
The Starkville Main Street Association is pursuing a grant on behalf of the city of Starkville for funds to improve the park beside Fire Station No. 1.
If the Mississippi Development Authority approves SMSAâ€™s application, it will match $10,000 SMSA has already agreed to devote toward renovations, which include the construction of an American Disabilities Act compliant sidewalk from the existing sidewalk along University Drive to the existing sidewalks in the park.
The matching funds are made available through the MDAâ€™s Creative Economy Program.
SMSA representative Jennifer Gregory said the sidewalk and ADA improvements to the University Drive entrance are the first of a two-phase project that will improve accessibility to the park from both University Drive and the intersection of Russell Street and Lampkin Street. According to an estimate in the Starkville Board of Aldermen e-packet for its December 4 meeting, the first phase is projected to cost $19,989.86 â€” just under the $20,000 total in play if MDA approves the grant proposal.
â€śThe recommendations from our charrette in March 2011 were the inspiration for improvements weâ€™re proposing for the park, which are to broaden the perceived boundaries. This park is a public park, but we believe it is perceived by many that it is a private park because it is enclosed by a fence,â€ť Gregory said. â€śBecause of a lack of access points into the park, it is very underutilized. This is a great space in a prime area, specifically with development on Lampkin (Street) and Montgomery (Street). The park is adjacent to a large area of redevelopment. With the retail, a lot of visitors come to those areas. This is a perfect opportunity to capture that activity and give those people a quiet, accessible place.â€ť
The projectâ€™s second phase would improve accessibility from the Lampkin Street entrance by creating two entrance points and connecting those to the parkâ€™s existing walkways. That phase of the project is an estimated $12,049.40, which Gregory said will be sought from local, private businesses.
Once both phases are completed, she said, multi-use opportunities will become available for the park.
â€śOnce we improve the park we plan to have several more public opportunities for artists, (including) small events and maybe having art installations there for people to enjoy,â€ť Gregory said, â€śbut the number one step is to improve access.â€ť