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Walking trail gets sidetracked

More recreational activities in the county has been an ongoing topic of discussion, especially among candidates during the last election cycle.

Three of those who were advocates for a multi-purpose building located in the county during the recent campaign season now sit on the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, but cannot come to a consensus on how such a facility should be constructed.

Newly elected District 1 Supervisor Kevin Frye recently suggested the county apply for a $56,200 Mississippi Recreational Trails grant through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks that could provide trails on 25 out of 160 county-owned acres located off Highway 6 on County Road 406 near Rolling Wood subdivision with hopes that one day a multi-purpose building would also be included in the area.

Two proposals

County engineer Larry Britt brought two preliminary probable costs for the walking trail and recreational area to the board Tuesday night. One estimate was for just over $52,000, while the other was for $94,700 but included a covered pavilion and $64,000 in limestone rather than $12,000 in crushed stone.

There’s currently a cleared trail that is used frequently by the high school cross country teams and horse-riding enthusiasts, Frye said.

Frye’s view is that the county should apply for the grant, whether or not the supervisors decide to accept it from the federal government. The deadline to apply is early March.

Little support

His fellow supervisors, Mike Roberts and David Rikard, who also favored more recreational amenities for residents during their election campaigns, have concerns. Rikard was worried about liability issues with public use of the walking trail, as well as the ramifications if the county is awarded the grant and then decides not to use it. Roberts said he campaigned four years ago on the promise that a multi-purpose building would be constructed on the 160 acres and doesn’t favor using funds for a trail rather than a multi-purpose facility.

“I just can’t in my good conscience spend any money for anything recreational on that property at this point other than a multi-purpose building,” Roberts said. “Whether it’s $5 or $500,000, I can’t be for spending any money on recreation there until I have something set in stone and we’re moving forward with a multi-purpose building.”

He’s also concerned about trail upkeep.

Supervisor Chad McLarty said the board is undecided on several issues about the use of the 160 acres.

“I hate to tie up 20 or 25 acres of that real estate that county taxpayers paid a pretty big penny for per acre,” McLarty said. “I’m not opposed to the trail. I think recreation is great. But I have to look at a want and needs standpoint. There are 15 other places I can think of off the top of my head I can go walk in Lafayette County.”

“From my conversations with folks who were on a (multi-purpose building) committee, they would love to have a trail out there in anticipation of adding a multi-purpose building down the road,” Frye said.

Private support

Frye said although he does not have a commitment, he has had conversations with two “private entities” interested in helping with the matching portion of the grant, “if we voted on it and had something to show them.”

The match is 20 percent, according to Britt, which would be $6,000. Britt said there could possibly be some in-kind services where the county used their own labor on some of the project.

Frye made a motion to have Britt and Three Rivers to put together a grant proposal to begin the process for applying because the deadline is in March. However, he couldn’t get a second from his fellow board members and the motion died.