Community service was the central theme of the “Hanging of the Ropes” ceremony that marked the completion of the post and rope fence at Sawmill Landing Park on Saturday, November 4th. Navy Junior ROTC Cadets from Moss Point and East Central High Schools learned to splice sections of rope that now hang between the fence posts in a tribute to the maritime heritage of Moss Point and the park.
Forty-seven of the splices along the 260-foot fence each carry a tag with the cadet’s name, school and year of graduation – a tribute to their contribution to service – a core tenet of the JROTC program. “Having these Cadets participate in the development of this community space helps us instill a sense of community service, that is a key goal of the JROTC program.” Lieutenant Commander Tara Lambert, Senior Naval Science Instructor, Moss Point High School.
For Mayor Billy Knight Jr, their act of service is part of the goal toward the long-awaited completion of the park and an example of what a public space should be – owned by the community itself. “I am excited about every opportunity to engage citizens in the development of this park, because, if we are truly all in this together, then it helps to make it their park.” Mayor Billy Knight, Sr.
Project managers have worked to engage community volunteers throughout this year-long effort, including the planting of trees and shrubs, the adoption of those trees, and work days to reduce the presence of invasive species, with more to come as the park continues to take shape. This type of engagement and sense of ownership will fuel the long-term health and management of what is being established as a nature-based park. The park celebrates the natural history of the region that includes the trees that fueled the forestry and shipbuilding industries of Moss Point through the 19th and 20th centuries.
At its height, dozens of sawmills and shipyards dotted the shoreline of the Escatawpa River, from which sailing ships and the wood products they carried sailed the globe. Lumber, charcoal, wood shingles and more were processed from logs that were floated and otherwise delivered to the vibrant river community. The park itself was the site of the Blummer Foundry, Machine Shop, and Spoke and Handle Factory that produced the tools of the trades that supported the local economy.
A grist mill and telegraph office were also present, as were the homes of prominent entrepreneurs that made Moss Point their home and supported workers from throughout the south. It is this rich cultural and natural history that is celebrated across the park in the form of the newly planted trees and now, a fence, hand-made by youth of the community the park is meant to serve.
The ceremony was as impressive as the pride these young men and women took in doing the work and seeing it installed as part of a public space. The Navy Cadet Fence will serve as a material testament to their community service for as long as it stands.
Title photo courtesy of Steve Renfroe. Rope and tag photos by Mark W. LaSalle