Mansfield pushes for fundraising efforts to renovate Sally Kate Winters Park

Local artist Deborah Mansfield shows off a “Pennies for the Park” jar at the Thursday meeting of the West Point Rotary Club on Thursday. (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)
By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
DTL Editor

Well-known local artist Deborah Mansfield, along with others from the West Point Main Street Association, made their pitch to Rotarians on Thursday as they begin raising funds for much-needed renovations to Sally Kate Winters Park.

The park, which was first purchased in the 1980s, is in need of a wide range of improvements, from structural issues to drainage and the wisteria that has become a notable attraction for the park.

“There are so many things that happen in that park and I think we take it for granted,” Mansfield commented, pointing to the many events held at the park and the substantial foot traffic it sees year-round. “That park is our Central Park and not many towns have that asset and so we need to protect it.”

The Winters family first purchased the property from the ICG Railroad and made a gift of the park to the city of West Point on the 125th anniversary of the city on June 18, 1983. The park is named after their daughter, who was killed in an automobile accident years earlier.

Mansfield pointed to the myriad problems currently plaguing the park, beginning with one of its most historic components harkening back to when the site was home to a community swimming pool.

“The fountain is on again, off again and has a cracked base,” Mansfield said. “The fountain was the wading pool, so it’s a very important piece to the history of the park.”

She then said the wooden structures in the park are worn and the park’s gazebo is in desperate need of repair work, in addition to limited parking and sub-standard lighting for the area.

What’s more, she says the plant life for the park, which has provided the backdrop for countless event photos, must be addressed.

“There are plants dying, and many haven’t been removed, due to old age, lack of water or drainage,” Mansfield said. “Some trees have been cut down, structures are crumbling, some of the pergolas are crumbling. And there’s only three wisteria left that we need to protect.”

Drainage has also posed a huge problem due to the park’s lower elevation.

“After it rains, it’s hard to use,” Mansfield said.

A WORTHWHILE EFFORT

While the task is a big one for Mansfield and the Main Street Association, she came to Rotary with a plan.

“I happen to know a good landscape architect, my husband Jim, so I asked if he would come up with a conceptual plan to renovate the park and he came up with two phases,” Mansfield said. “Phase one deals with renovating the existing structures, lighting, draining, grating and plant material. Phase II is working with Veterans Park and Sally Kate Winters Park and making them one to make them more usable.”

She then said each phase would cost between $1 million and $2 million to complete, which is where the community must step up if the park is to be renovated.

Growth Alliance Director and Rotarian Lisa Klutts said Mansfield’s fundraising efforts in the past have received awards from Mississippi Main Street Association and this new concept is just the latest worthwhile project geared toward boosting the profile of the city.

“Rotary is looking to do something in the community and I think a fun fundraiser would be a crawfish boil,” Klutts suggested.

Mansfield then said there are different levels of involvement for everyone in the community, from single individuals to large businesses.

She also presented a mason jar decorated with flowers that would be placed at area businesses and other locations for people to donate “Pennies for the Park.”

“We are trying to collect money any way we can, so if you are interested in having one in your business, let me know,” Mansfield said.

OTHER PROJECTS

Mansfield keeps busy, even with a full slate of art projects, and gave Rotarians a brief overview of some of the other initiatives, including the mural of the pets playing poker on the side of Frank’s Package Store.
“We raised close to $32,000, with half going to the animal shelter and other half went to Main Street,” she said.

Perhaps the project generating the most buzz is the new Black Prairie Blues Museum on Commerce Street. Earlier this year, the Daily Times Leader reported that the timetable for completion of the museum would be in the next two years if all goes as planned.

The museum will be located in the former Bank of West Point building, which was built in 1896.

West Point businessman and arts promoter Milton Sundbeck purchased the building and financed renovations and the group has begun discussions about fundraising, grants and private donations.
Mansfield said the current budget for the museum was $750,000.

“It’s a lot, but fortunately it doesn’t all have to come from West Point,” she said. “We’re excited about that project and it will bring a lot of people to town, so it’ll be a real plus. It’s going to be out of the box.”

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