By Randy Bell
Every burger. Every burrito. Every steak. Every salad.
Every meal sold at a Clinton restaurant since last September will soon be paying off with local park improvements – and City leaders believe improved restroom facilities should be one of the top priorities.
The City will have about $1.2 million in revenue from the first year of the two per cent restaurant tax, which two-thirds of Clinton’s voters approved in July of last year. Leaders are looking at a three-phase approach in how to spend the money, and the public will have a chance to review the proposed projects before any final decisions are made.
“The second [Board] meeting in September, we’re going to have a public hearing on the parks and what they’re going to look like when we’re through and how we’re going to get there,” says Mayor Phil Fisher. He indicates that the comments from citizens will be important. “Taking those into account, [at] the first meeting in October, the Board will vote – and then we’re off and running.”
Parks and Recreation Director Courtney Nunn has identified restrooms at Kids’ Towne and Traceway Park as a top focus in the first phase of the park improvements.
“Kids’ Towne is our only park that doesn’t have an actual restroom,” Nunn points out. “We still have two Porta-Johns there. We need restrooms.” The plan is to build them as part of an expanded pickleball complex with eight courts.
Better restrooms at the City’s softball, baseball and soccer fields are also included in phase one.
“A lot of our restrooms at Traceway either need complete renovations or upgrading,” Nunn says.
Another priority is a new playground at Brighton Park.
“The playground that’s out there right now is a smaller playground. It’s around fifteen to twenty years old. This new playground will be all-inclusive. It will cater to handicap accessible needs and [children of] all ages.”
Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin admits that some of the early projects may not create as much buzz as future improvements, but he understands why they rank higher on the list.
“It’s very tempting to do the fun stuff first, but the bathrooms are important; so the list is kind of loaded with that on the front end,” said Martin.
The second and third phases of the proposed park improvements include a challenge course and an outdoor fitness studio upgrade at Brighton Park and a skate park and paved walking path at Kids’ Towne.
“We just have to be a little patient until we get to that part of the list,” Martin says.
Ward 6 Alderman James Lott considers the building or renovating of restrooms as a first step toward restoring the prestige of the City’s park system.
“Our parks, at one point—at least Traceway—[were] the pinnacle of parks in central Mississippi. So what we’re trying to do is, number one, get Traceway back to its former glory and bring our other parks up to par.”
Ward 5 Alderwoman Beverly Oliver agrees.
“We all know that we’ve got to have a good, solid foundation in infrastructure before people look at all the extras that we can do,” said Oliver. “We hear a lot of complaints about our [park] infrastructure, especially at Traceway—the bathrooms and that kind of stuff.”