Tupelo’s response to growth since World War II always has included its parks and recreation department and programs to meet the needs of new residents and neighborhoods.
The historic anchor for Tupelo’s extensive parks and recreation assets today is City Park (officially Rob Leake City Park, for a longtime park commission chairman) on Joyner Avenue, wedged between Joyner Elementary School on the north and Tupelo Memorial Park on the south, and accessible to the Joyner neighborhood, Tupelo’s first major post-World War II housing growth.
The neighborhood, school, cemetery and park have served as a valuable unifier keeping the neighborhood attractive, stable and drawing people from around the city.
Change is coming for City Park because its swimming pool, a landmark of recreation and competition for a half-century, soon will be razed and its role transferred to the new aquatic center in Veterans Park.
Tupelo Park and Rec, as the municipal department is called, has plans to replace the swimming pool with a splash pad similar to ones at Fairpark in downtown and at Veterans Park. The pads, which simply spray water, are wildly popular.
City Park has other assets that helped build its use and diversity over decades stretching from the late 1940s and early 1950s to today. Chief among those is a still-expanding tennis center slated for an all-season upgrade in the months ahead.
The bubble formerly used to winterize the swimming pool will cover some of the tennis courts to give Tupelo only the second public covered courts in the state.
Tupelo is known as a tennis town with strong youth, student and adult participation, in part because public courts historically have been available, often with professional instruction, for all players.
The American Planning Association, a nationwide coalition of advocates and professionals, cites five points in support of maintaining strong urban and neighborhood parks:
• “Key Point #1: Real property values are positively affected.
• “Key Point #2: Municipal revenues are increased.
• “Key Point #3: Affluent retirees are attracted and retained.
• “Key Point #4: Knowledgable workers and talent are attracted to live and work.
• “Key Point #5: Homebuyers are attracted to purchase homes.”
The Joyner neighborhood has remained strong and stable in part because of the park and the nearby school, which also was built following World War II. It is a major component of the city’s official vision to rebuild and retain Tupelo’s attractiveness for middle-class housing, especially for young families.