New walkway added to Cooper’s Ferry Park

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 9, 2004

MONTICELLO — Residents of this area can work on their healthwhile enjoying a “magnificent” view of the Pearl River with theaddition of a 375 foot elevated walkway along the river’sbanks.

Built on the site of an old ferry, Cooper’s Ferry Park wasestablished a few years ago as a city park and volunteers havecontinued to add features to the park each year.

Charles Bufkin, president of the Methodist Men, said he wasvisiting a park in Crystal Springs when he got the idea for theelevated walkway from a similar one there.

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The walkway begins near the water wheel and forms a U-shape,ending at the butterfly gardens. Along the way, it provides severalviews of the Pearl River from a vantage point nearly 20 feet in theair.

“We call it ‘Walking in the Trees’ because you feel like youare,” Bufkin said. “It just increases your appreciation of natureand,” he gestured towards the river, “man, what a view!”

There was also a practical reason to elevate the walkway, Bufkinsaid. The Pearl River often overflows its banks, and the elevationkeeps the walkway from being flooded. In addition, he said, whenflooding does occur it will seem as if the walkway stretches outover the river itself.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “Every time I look at itI can’t believe we built it.”

Bufkin and two inmates from the Lawrence County Jail did most ofthe work, hauling more than four tons of concrete down to therivers’ banks to make the footings for the posts and raising morethan 700 posts. It took them 12 weeks to build.

The walkway wasn’t built without a hitch, however. A localindustry had to save the project when a grant application fellthrough.

Bufkin said the Crystal Springs walkway was built with a$200,000 grant. The Cooper’s Ferry park committee knew they couldbuild a walkway much cheaper by doing the construction themselvesand were promised a grant could be obtained by the grant writers,he said.

The estimated cost of the project was around $12,000, so theydecided to go ahead and proceed with the project. They hadcompleted several 20 foot sections before they received the news –there would be no grant.

“We thought when we started we would get a grant for one, butthere was too much competition,” Bufkin said.

He said the committee was stunned, but fortunately a localindustry once again flowed money into the park.

Georgia-Pacific awarded the park a $10,000 grant to build thewalkway, later adding an additional $1,000 to see it through to itsfinish.

“Georgia-Pacific has had such an impact on this park,” Bufkinsaid. “We really appreciate everything they’ve done here.”

The Monticello Mill also paid for and built the water wheel andcontributed on other projects.

The remainder of the construction cost was supplied by the JimmyGeorge Memorial Fund, Bufkin said. An overlook on the walkway isnamed in honor of the Lawrence County civic activist. George wasvery supportive of the park and the Lawrence County Civic Center,among other projects.

The first community event at the park that Bufkin hopes willdraw people to the walkway will be held at 6:45 a.m. Sunday whenthe Methodist church provides Easter Sunrise services.