Up until now, there has only been one splash pad in Hattiesburg: the one offered at the Hattiesburg Zoo.
Beginning in April, however, residents will be able to enjoy the first large-scale, public splash pad in the city at Dewitt Sullian Park in the Palmers Crossing community. City and county officials broke ground Jan. 14 at the site of the upcoming pad, where workers will start construction within the next couple of weeks.
“The benefits of a splash pad in south Mississippi should go without saying, but I’ll say it: it gets hot in this park and every other park in our city,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “But aside from cooling down, splash pads offer opportunities for children to develop sensory and motor skills.
“They promote community, they afford children chances to socialize, and they are less expensive with less liability than a traditional community pool. As we have looked at other cities in the Gulf South, they certainly promote tourism in a community by having this amenity available.”
The splash will offer a 3D feature that pays tribute to the former Hi-Hat Club on Old Airport Road, as well as several paintings that incorporate musical notes and a railroad line.
“This is a historic day for myself and Palmers Crossing,” Forrest County District 4 Supervisor Rod Woullard said. “In 2006, about 75 residents of Palmers Crossing came together in the county boardroom, and at that time we laid out a plan for this park (that is owned by Forrest County). I think it is a tribute not only to this city, but a tribute to God and to perseverance, because everything that you want does not come overnight, especially in government.
“So after all these years, this complete plan is coming to a head. As long as we work together, do not divide ourselves, stay together in our visions, and support one another’s visions, we can do anything in this city and this county. I thank God this day for bringing this vision to fruition.”
The project is expected to cost approximately $225,000, which will come from the 1% sales tax increase at Hattiesburg hotels, motels and restaurants that was approved by voters in April 2019.
That increase, which was passed with an 81% approval rate, was expected to bring in approximately $4.2 million in new revenue. Half of those funds are earmarked for 17 Parks and Recreation Department projects around the city, while the other half will be used for renovations at Reed Green Coliseum on the University of Southern Mississippi campus.
Initial projections expected the tax to generate about $100,000 a month for the city and another $100,000 for Southern Miss, but through the first four months of the tax, the measure generated an average of $117,000 per month. In addition to the splash pad, projects completed with the help of the tax include a walking trail extension at Duncan Lake, lighting improvements at the Tatum Tennis Court Complex, a batting cage at Vernon Dahmer Park and the replacement of the gymnasium floor at Thames Elementary School.
“One of the reasons I ran for office back in 2017 was because I felt as though progress was at a standstill here in Ward 5,” said Nicholas Brown, who represents that ward on Hattiesburg City Council. “From many conversations with citizens in the Palmers Crossing community, they felt they were being underserved.
“With this groundbreaking today, we see progress. This also shows teamwork with the citizens, the county and the City of Hattiesburg. Without your vote on the 1% sales tax, this may have been delayed or not possible.”