City should keep Kids’ Kingdom spirit growing

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 14, 2003

One year ago, over 1,000 community volunteers each spentcountless hours over three days building the Kids’ Kingdom — aplayground for the area’s youth.

Those efforts are a tribute to community spirit and the ‘can do’attitude of Brookhaven and Lincoln County. The birthday bash lastweekend brought everybody back to celebrate the success of theproject.

It was a wonderful day — kids were playing, faces were beingpainted and music was blaring. The smell of hamburgers and hot dogswas in the air, and smiles were on the faces of everyone.

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Behind those smiles, however, were a few frowns and furrowedbrows. That’s because the future of the year-old facility is inquestion now that city officials are rethinking an earlier pledgeto take over operation of the playground as part of the recreationdepartment.

To understand the city’s concern, one has to realize that the10-acre park site was built in the flood plain of the headwaters ofthe East Bogue Chitto River. The day after the Kingdom opened lastyear, a torrential rainstorm overwhelmed the area and put most ofthe playground several feet under water. Five times over the past12 months, flooding has caused damage to the site.

City fathers are concerned that the park might become aliability and have suggested moving it to another location. At onepoint, it even appeared they were planning to reject the whole ideaand hand it back to the organizers. They now appear to have backedaway from that thought.

Park supporters are not supportive of the idea of moving thefacility, mainly for the simple reason of the sweat equity of the1,000 volunteers who planned and built the playground. Others thinkKids’ Kingdom serves a portion of the city that does not have aplayground.

The board of aldermen formed a committee to study the situation,but members are balking at paying for a $2,500 soil sample — theythink the Kids’ Kingdom volunteers should help pay the cost. TheCorps of Engineers has been contacted in hopes they will come upwith a solution.

If you were not part of the effort to build the park, you maynot be able to appreciate what was accomplished. In three days, outof an overgrown wooded lot, came the park. Mothers, fathers, aunts,uncles, grandparents, city folks and country folks, blacks andwhite, rich and poor, toiled in the heat to build the playground.Many had never swung a hammer, much less used a power saw or anelectric drill.

Not only did the community build a playground that weekend, theybuilt something more important. When individuals work togetherside-by-side for so many hours, relationships are built andfriendships are made.

Yes, maybe there is some liability in the Kids Kingdomplayground and some hidden maintenance costs for analready-stretched city budget. But, I bet that if our city fathersput their heads together, they can find a solution to the drainageproblem.

Sometimes in life we have to make decisions and do things weknow are right, even though we’re not quite sure how the end resultwill be accomplished. The details are figured out later.

Watching the smiles on the faces of the kids and the looks ofsatisfaction on the faces of the parents last week tells me this isone of those times.

There is a community spirit in the Kids’ Kingdom. Our cityfathers would do well to build on that spirit by finding a solutionthat leaves the facility intact and the community spiritglowing.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602.