By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
TISHOMINGO – The property that formerly was home to the Crow’s Neck Environmental Education Center is being reopened next weekend as the Fellowship Christian Retreat at Crow’s Neck.
The new retreat and conference center will hold a ribbon-cutting, tour and celebration service beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“I couldn’t think of anybody better that I’d like to see down there,” said Tishomingo County 5th District Supervisor Steve Thorne, who represents the area where the facility is located.
Since learning in early 2011 of Crow’s Neck’s planned closing on June 30, 2011, Thorne has worked tirelessly to find a new tenant and/or new use for the property.
“When we found out it was going to close there was really nothing any one person could have done to keep it from closing,” Thorne said. “From the time I was elected in 2008, Crow’s Neck was operated by Northeast (Community College) and we locally didn’t really have anything to do with it.”
The property is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and from the site’s creation in 1993 was operated by the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District and a consortium of colleges and universities that eventually winnowed down to Northeast.
The closing resulted from continually decreasing state support to the college and not enough use by groups to maintain it. However, after the agreement with the TRVWMD ended, the Corps of Engineers from the beginning indicated a willingness to open the facility to state, county or local agencies for lease as an environmental center or to make into a public park. The next option was to offer it to nonprofit agencies, but not to any type of commercial operation.
“Fellowship Christian Retreat is an independent incorporated nonprofit group that has leased the facility and will schedule events,” said spokesman Russell Murphree. “The Koinonia Emmaus Community will hold a lot of retreats there – probably looking at eight weekends in a year. Other than that it will be open to school groups, community groups, churches, one-day, overnight, three-day and corporate retreats. I think there are five weddings on the calendar already.”
The Corps of Engineers has agreed to lease the property to FCR for five years, said spokesman E. Patrick Robbins, chief of legislative and public affairs for the USCOE Mobile District. FCR will pay a $500 annual fee to administer the lease and is required to perform all maintenance at the facility.
House Bill 1648 passed in the 2012 Mississippi legislative session allows Thorne to provide in-kind help on the property for some of that maintenance, and also permits Tishomingo County and other counties to allocate funds to help maintain the facility.
“I’ve talked with so many different people over the past two years to try to get it reopened, nonprofit agencies like the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Dr. Mark Keenum at Mississippi State, Mike Clayton at CREATE Foundation and many others,” Thorne said. “We began talking with FCR about a year ago and as time went on I got the feeling something good was going to come out of it. I think it’s going to be good not only for Tishomingo County, but also for Northeast Mississippi.”
At A Glance
WHAT: Fellowship Christian Retreat ribbon-cutting, tour and celebration service
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: County Road 115 off Mississippi Highway 30, Tishomingo
PROPERTY: A 530-acre property on the shore of Bay Springs Lake. Includes 15,000-square-foot main lodge with classrooms, meeting rooms, 150-seat theater-style auditorium, full service kitchen,
dining hall with two-story stone fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows, large wooden deck, administrative offices; four group-style residential lodges; outdoor classrooms; outdoor amphitheater; walking trails; and more.
INFORMATION: Karen Comer, (662) 438-7727