Officials have big plans for water park

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 2, 2004

MONTICELLO — Town officials are using the quiet winter monthsto make some ‘invisible’ improvements to Atwood Water Park.

“We’ve already finished the new water tank, and we’ve also begunan upgrade on the electrical system,” said Mayor David Nichols.

The new water system was started by the Pearl River BasinDevelopment District, but the town completed the project afterpurchasing the park a year ago. The water system was completed inlate summer, Nichols said, and improves service throughout thepark.

The town is continuing an electrical system upgrade.

The park has needed more electrical service for quite some timeto meet the demands placed on it during events that draw a largenumber of campers, Nichols said.

Southern Pine Electric Company is providing some services forfree and charging for others during the upgrade. Electrician KennyPlatt has donated many hours in assisting with it, Nicholssaid.

The upgrades are just the beginning, however. Nichols said thetown has big plans for the water park. How fast those plans are putinto place will be determined later this month when the town learnsthe fate of a $150,000 development grant.

“With the grant, we want to build a new shower-bathroom facilitybetween the tennis courts and the stage area,” Nichols said.”That’s not the only thing we’ll do with the grant. It’s just thefirst.”

That project also includes renovating and improving the existingfacilities, he said.

Another priority project is to create a parking lot within thepark area, the mayor said. Currently, visitors to the park areparking in the field near the stage area and along the main drive,both areas subject to the weather.

The proposed paved parking area is expected to be just insidethe entrance near a new gatehouse.

“This is also something we’ve needed for a long time andsomething I’ve long wished we could get,” Nichols said. “It’scertainly a priority.”

The new gatehouse would be smaller and more modern, the mayorsaid. Instead of tearing down the existing gatehouse, however, itwill be renovated and moved near the tennis courts to serve as aclubhouse.

“All of the new facilities would be built above the flood stage,which would require raising them through architectural design,”Nichols said. “It would be a minimum of a year’s worth ofwork.”

The grant requires a 50 percent match, he said, but officialsbelieve they can meet that by supplying “in kind” work on theproject and by thinning some timber on the park property.

The timber will be thinned regardless of the grant results laterthis month, he said.

“If we don’t get the grant, we’ll still move forward with theseplans, just much more slowly,” Nichols said. “Our priorities are torenovate the existing bathrooms and build new ones and build theparking lot.”

Construction on the park will not have a significant impact onevents held at the park, he said.

“We’ll work all that around the different events that happen atthe park,” Nichols said.

Once the priority projects are completed, he said, the masterplan also includes adding a 6-8 bay floating boat dock, buildingfamily cabins, and adding a group cabin near the pavilion.

The town acquired the park a year ago when the county opted outof an agreement with the Pearl River Basin Development District,which built the park. Under the agreement made with PRBDD, thedevelopment organization would build and add further developmentthe park while the county and city would maintain it.

County officials, which contributed annually to the PRBDD,became skeptical when developments were continually made at otherparks and Atwood never received major improvements, despite drawingseveral thousand people to a few annual events.

When the lease was up for renewal, the county opted not to renewit. They negotiated with PRBDD and town officials for months topurchase the park, but eventually turned down the developmentdistrict’s offer. The town opted to purchase the park because ofits economic benefits and to keep it from becoming privateproperty.