By Errol Castens
PONTOTOC – Imagine Pontotoc’s square with plenty of shade, seating for groups large and small, an amphitheater, a fountain. Imagine Tanglefoot Trail connecting to the ball fields on Highway 15 and to a new park with a myriad of ways to play or relax.
Mississippi State University landscape architecture students proposed just such ideas Monday to Pontotoc residents. The plans are part of the work required in Taz Fulford’s design class.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could get one of the design classes, instead of working on a fictitious community and problem, working on real issues affecting communities?’” said Joe Fratesi, community development director with the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at MSU. Mayor Jeff Stafford contacted Fratesi about including Pontotoc in the schedule.
The Tanglefoot Trail gave Pontotoc brand-new design canvases – one a link between the raised trail and the ball fields alongside it, and the other a proposed park on the old cotton compress site by the trail, along with existing downtown streetscapes and the Courthouse Square.
Ideas for the Square range from berms and a magnolia-shaped fountain to brick planters that double as seating. Streetscape suggestions include parallel parking, extended sidewalks and buffer space between storefronts and sidewalks for tables or retail displays.
Suggested trail-to-ballfield transitions included decks or amphitheater seating to expand the facility’s use along ramps to ease the steep grade change.
Most designs for the new park incorporated wetlands, fountains, fish pools or other water features. Other popular suggestions included a walking trail, an amphitheater, retail and food-service space, public art and playgrounds. Less common ideas included a relocated historical museum, built-in musical instruments, adapting compress machinery as playground equipment, “nap pods,” overnight lodging and even a few apartments.
Stafford said that city officials will try to glean the best ideas from each design.
“This is … a five- to seven-year project for us,” he said.
Fulford said the designs, which will return permanently to Pontotoc after grading, are also intended to generate further ideas.
“Sometimes the best way to start looking at something is through somebody else’s eyes,” he said.