By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The city will invest $50,000 in the creation of an east Tupelo nature trail aimed at Elvis fans and outdoor buffs alike.
Approximately two miles in length, the Music Bend Nature Trail will snake through the wooded area along Mud Creek and mark the spot young Elvis Presley used to swim.
City officials are working with Presley’s childhood friend, Guy Harris, to pinpoint the exact area, said Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis, who is heading the effort.
The nature hike will tie into another upcoming attraction: the Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail, which is part of the $2.8 million Downtown Main Street Enhancement Project. The Mississippi Department of Transportation is funding 80 percent of the work.
Still in its design phase, that trail will feature sidewalks and bike paths to link downtown to the singer’s childhood home located just off Veterans Boulevard Drive.
Both the enhancement project and the nature trail are aimed at keeping Elvis tourists in town longer, where they’re more likely to spend money and fuel and the local economy.
But Tupelo residents will see a direct benefit, too, with more options for biking and walking. It dovetails into Mayor Jack Reed Jr.’s push for citywide health and fitness, and he has endorsed both projects.
“It’s an opportunity for people to get out and be active,” Lewis said.
Money for the nature trail comes from the remainder of a $9.5 million bond issued five years ago. Most of it had funded construction of the Ballard Park baseball complex and the new fire station on North Gloster Street.
Work on the trail already has begun. The city’s Public Works Department cleared the land and installed culverts. But officials had been waiting for clearance from the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway before proceeding.
“They control the streams,” Lewis explained.
Next, the city will put rocks along the trail and build bridges over the creeks. And they’ll mark the trail heads – one just north of the Eastwood Softball Complex; the other across the street from the fire station on Veterans.
Weather permitting, the attraction could open by late spring or early summer.