BLUE SPRINGS – For years, officials in Blue Springs have longed to build a park of some kind for its 400 or so residents. They wanted a place where the close-knit community could spend time together, a place where adults and children could relax.
But the budget never has been big enough to accommodate that dream.
That was until Monday when a large corporate neighbor just down the road announced it would give the community a boost.
That neighbor, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, is donating about $100,000 in material and labor to build the Toyota-Blue Springs Water Garden and Education Park.
Located across from the post office on Highway 9, the nearly 3⁄4-acre site will feature a pavilion, play structure and playground, community garden, butterfly garden and a pergola.
B&B Concrete Co. and MMC Materials will donate concrete for the pavilion area and for a sidewalk that will encircle the park.
“We thank the community of Blue Springs for the warm welcome shown to our team members and are pleased to give the town something in return,” said TMMMS Vice President of Administration Sean Suggs.
Toyota Mississippi opened in October 2011, four years after the automaker announced it would build a plant near the small Union County community.
Since then, the plant has donated $1.5 million to area organizations, on top of Toyota Motor Corp.’s $50 million commitment to the schools of the PUL (Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties) Alliance.
Site work has begun, and TMMMS team members and volunteers from the community hope to wrap up the project on Sept. 20, National Public Lands Day.
Among the features of the Toyota-Blue Springs Water Garden and Education Park will be a cistern that will be used to water the community garden. Compost bins will be built. Adjacent to the pergola, a fire pit area will have seating made from stumps of trees damaged by the April 28 tornado that ripped through nearby Tupelo.
And to show Toyota’s sustainability and conservation education philosophy, the slope of the land will allow water to flow to feed the Monarch butterfly garden. The garden will also have information explaining the life cycle, gardening instructions and migration of the butterflies.
“We couldn’t have done this without Toyota’s help,” said Blue Springs Mayor Rita Gentry. “They’ve very much been a great corporate and community partner. A few years ago, we didn’t have land for a park like this, then the last administration got the land. But we didn’t have the funds to do anything with it until now.”
Dr. Leanna Hollis, a physician who’s also an alderwoman of the community, said town officials met with Toyota Mississippi earlier this year to talk about the possibilities.
“We talked about what we wanted to do … we thought we were going to get some monkey grass for a median. This is a lot bigger than that,” she said, with a laugh.
Cory Gallo, a professor at Mississippi State University’s Landscape Architecture program, designed the water park, incorporating many ideas based on the community’s input.