Raise your hand if you love Lucedale City Park! If you raised your hand, how about helping raise a little money? Whether you can give five bucks or five grand, any amount will help the park update its playground equipment.
In this column, you’ll learn a little about the history of our splendid park and how you can help with the current project designed to give our children tools to develop important motor and coordination skills.
According to a historical accounting in By the Rivers of Water Volume II, Gregory Luce donated 30 acres within the city limits for a municipal park in the early 1900s. However, the park area was a cut-over wooded place with undergrowth of scrub oak, bushy plants, and vines. It had also become a collection place for all sorts of garbage. In order for the spot to be used as a park, much work had to be done.
The Business Girls Club initiated a clean-up effort soon after they formed in 1928 to rid the park of undergrowth and garbage. In 1929, the club raised money to build a bandstand in the park and to equip the park with four tables, 12 benches, and six swings. The tables, benches, and swings were purchased from Lucedale Commercial Company for $37. These actions, among many others, were accomplished by a group of working women almost a hundred years ago when most women did not work outside the home.
A section of the park’s northwest corner is designated for swings and other playground equipment. In the mid-1990s it became evident the equipment was deteriorated and presented a danger for children; thus, it was replaced with top-quality equipment including new swings and a large interactive jungle gym. Last year, those playground pieces were deemed rusty, exhausted, and hazardous. The faulty pieces were immediately removed from the park and an effort was initiated to rebuild the playground area.
Phase One of the project is expected to begin soon and city officials hope the earthwork (drainage, elevation, and retention walls) will be done this fall. The total project is expected to cost $460,000. Grants and donations will fund the project. The city’s goal for donations is $200,000. So far, $104,000 has been raised. All donations are tax-deductible. To make a contribution, contact City Hall at 601-947-2082.
When Luce donated this great big hole near the city’s center that we affectionately call City Park, the site was not suited for farming or constructing buildings; yet it made the perfect park. Throughout the years, a host of visionaries have put on their thinking caps, and the park has gradually evolved into a little paradise. Its luscious green hillsides are not only fun for children to run and roll down, but they also make terrific spots for picnics.
When Dana Nelson moved to Lucedale in the late 1980s, her mind’s eye saw the park as a natural stage. Her vision evolved into Shakespeare in the Park, an annual affair that took place throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. An accomplished performing artist, Nelson directed the event consisting of a series of scenes from plays written by the great bard. This “hole” is a God-made amphitheater. Like Nelson, Jay and Kim Davis also visualized big things in the park. The couple spearheaded Lucedale’s famous Praise in the Park, an annual Christian music festival that lasted 10 years drawing thousands and thousands of people to hear big-name contemporary gospel artists.
The hillside provides natural seating for events staged at the foot of the hill and a second project of the City of Lucedale is to build a permanent stage there. The late Jim Corley left his legacy all over the park. An engineer and an artist, Corley designed the concrete Elizabethan theater behind the pavilion and lined the seating area with tiles made by George County students. He also designed the war memorial firepit, splash pad, red bridge, and veterans’ memorial sundial, which serves as the site of an annual Veterans’ Day event.
In addition to theatrics and trees, the park features the old city jail, a historic schoolhouse, grilling stations, and the county’s only tennis courts. Let’s raise the money necessary to give it the equipment it needs for the sake of children.
Raise your hand if you know a good reason to play in the park.