By JB Clark
TUPELO – The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks wants to hear from the public on what it should make priorities for outdoor recreation funding in the state over the next five years.
To qualify for matching grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the MDWFP must survey residents and compile a five-year outlook of the state’s recreation supply, demands and needs in a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
Jean Caraway, recreational trail program administrator for MDWFP, said they have not been able to apply for state and local grants since 2005 due to budget cuts and congressional withholding of Land and Water Conservation Funds.
Caraway said the recreation plan also helps MDWFP organize all recreational offerings in the state, whether state, local or privately donated.
The 2009-2014 Mississippi SCORP listed trails, swimming and splash pad facilities, park and fishing facilities, sports fields, playgrounds and picnic areas as top needs.
The biggest issues facing Mississippi public recreation in the same period was lack of funding, poor facility maintenance and lack of technical and planning assistance.
To establish a list of priorities and issues for focused funding for 2015 -2019, planners from Dana Brown Associates are surveying Mississippians through a series of public meetings and also online.
Caraway said she is planning, if funding allows, to take applications statewide in 2014.
Representatives from Saltillo, Walnut, Lee County and Three Rivers Planning and Development District gave input on north Mississippi’s needs at a SCORP public hearing Tuesday at Elvis Presley Lake.
Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith said he has seen an increase in multipurpose trail use by Mississippi’s growing number of walkers, bikers and runners and would encourage creating more.
Kurt Brummett, research and development director for Three Rivers, said he would like to see targeted small community assistance grants so smaller towns won’t have to compete with larger cities for recreational grants.
Mississippi residents can go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SCORPcitizensurvey or the MDWFP Facebook page and fill out a survey and provide their opinions on the state’s recreational needs.