Northside Sun, Jackson

Still On: Plans For Lefleur’s Bluff Continue To Move Ahead Despite Veto

By Nell Luter Floyd

New additions to LeFleur’s Bluff Complex in Jackson are in the works, despite the governor’s veto of $13.2 million that the Legislature approved for additions to the complex during the 2022 session.

Gov. Tate Reeves vetoed the funding because he deemed it “inappropriate” ways to spend taxpayer money, saying the city of Jackson has other needs such as more police officers.

Susan Garrard, president and chief executive officer of the Mississippi Children’s Museum, said the masterplan for the green space that connects the children’s museum and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science dates to 2018 and was meant to be completed in phases.

“We are still committed to the masterplan,” she said. “We have a beautiful 150 acres of urban green space. We think the masterplan is inspirational.

“We’ll continue to work with Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and with our state and community leaders to create the best urban park that we can.”

About $10 million in funding from numerous sources has been raised for the overall masterplan and new components continue to be built, she said.

Spotter’s Adventure Trail, which will be located east of the state-of-the-art playground that opened last December and connect the Children’s Museum with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, is set to open at the end of summer, she said. The trail will feature an interactive outdoor experience with Spotter the Otter and friends.

The Den, a raised deck and open-air pavilion, will also be an addition to the playground area, she said. The Den, which will be constructed west of the playground and include tables and seating for up to 50 students, will be useful for programs by both museums, field trips and family gatherings, she said.

“We’ve seen over 70,000 visitors to the playground since December,” she said. “We’ve had someone out there counting. The comments received from parents and grandparents and others about the playground make it very gratifying to have worked on.”

The construction of the playground kicked off the first phase of the masterplan and the adventure trail and pavilion are in the second phase.

An updated entrance to the complex and improved parking as well as an extension of the Museum Trail to Lakeland Drive are planned.

A federal grant will fund the engineering for a pedestrian bridge over Lakeland Drive that would allow access to the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame to the children’s museum and the natural science museum.

“All of the museums have worked on events together and we recognize that we want to be connected in a more meaningful way,” Garrard said. “We know we’re stronger as a district.”

Garrard said she and other leaders continue to look for resources so that everything in the masterplan, including the Otter Creek Golf Park that would have been designed by world-renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones and Mississippi golf architect Nathan Crace but for which the governor vetoed funding, can be constructed and enjoyed by visitors.

Urban greenspaces are quality of life amenities that young people and families value, Garrard said, and are a positive for the city as well as the state.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who along with U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Acting Director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Lynn Posey, Jones, Crace and Garrard, attended the April 12 media announcement about plans for LeFleur’s Bluff Complex.

“Projects like the LeFleur’s Bluff development are critical to the Capital City, the wider metropolitan area and our state,” Hosemann said. “Public parks are the lungs of a city. Our citizens, young and old, desire these public assets to provide a higher quality of life. I am hopeful the hard-working individuals, including Susan Garrard and all those at the Mississippi Children’s Museum, who are working on this development will continue pushing forward and see it through to fruition.”