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A Community Helps Build Their Park

Making a connection between people and a place is not complicated if you invite them to make it their own. That is the plan as the newest park in Moss Point takes shape over the next few months. Work on Sawmill Landing Park began in earnest in 2022 the removal and treatment of invasive plants and design for what will be a low-impact, green infrastructure footprint that honors the intent of the grant used to purchase the site.

But what happened on Saturday, February 25 was every bit as important. The Rotary Club of Moss Point and the City of Moss Point invited citizens to help plant the trees and shrubs that will help define and interpret the natural and cultural history of this site for generations to come. Messaging ahead of Planting Day at the park was: “Count Yourself Present on Planting Day.”

Well, more than 90 folks heeded the call! Among the crowd were the community’s youth, from the Rotary’s Interact Club, Navy ROTC, Moss Point STEM Team, Mayor’s Youth Council, and junior members of several local Greek Sororities. Alumni of those Sororities (Zeta Phi Beta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and Delta Sigma Theta) were right there with them, assisted by the City’s Mayor and Alderpersons, the District 2 County Supervisor, a Justice Court Judge, Rotarians – and many, many more!!!

And while these folks were there to plant trees, the lesson of the day was – that people of all ages and roles in a community had come together – to help build their park. Young people shoveled dirt in holes alongside community leaders, while those leaders saw the promise of youth who wanted to be there in service to their community. In the end, a healthy sense of pride in the accomplishments of the day was secured, along with commitments to do more.

The more includes pledges from these groups to continue to visit the park for scheduled workdays that will help contribute to the ongoing management of invasive plants, documentation of the biological diversity of the park, and further plantings. In this way, the park becomes a destination beyond helping in its development. Watching the trees that they planted grow and prosper will bring people back far into the future.

That was the plan for Planting Day at Sawmill Landing Park, and it worked! According to Mayor Billy Knight, Sr., “Moss Point is excited about this work to complete this public space, located at an important gateway to the River City. We want the citizens of Moss Point to have direct experience in helping with this project through the planting of trees that they can watch grow for years to come.”

But on Planting Day, what was really planted were great memories and a healthy dose of ownership in a community. And not one hand left the park without dirt under all ten fingernails. More to come!

Photos courtesy of Donna Stewart 


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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