Downtown Jackson News

Smith Park Restoration

Restoration begins on Jackson’s historic Smith Park

Public-private partnership will turn park into first-class green space

JACKSON, Miss. (Nov. 13, 2017) – The second phase of a long anticipated multi-million-dollar restoration of one of America’s oldest city parks will begin this week, Jackson city officials and downtown leaders announced today.

Phase II of the Smith Park restoration calls for the removal of dilapidated concrete waterways, the elimination of unsightly berms and the re-sodding of grass to create a more open and level green space for visitors to use in a safe and inviting environment.

At a cost of $100,000, funding for this portion of the overall $2.5 million restoration is made possible by Downtown Jackson Partners (DJP) in partnership and with the cooperation of the City of Jackson. Friends of Smith Park, a volunteer group committed to the park’s restoration, is also spearheading the effort. Plans for the project were reviewed and approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, given its designation as a Mississippi historic landmark.

“The City of Jackson is excited to partner with Downtown Jackson Partners in the restoration of Smith Park,” said Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “This project is symbolic of the renaissance occurring in Downtown Jackson. When completed, Smith Park will be a world-class green space for all of Jackson and the state to enjoy.”
Phase II will take approximately two months to complete, during which time the park will be closed to the public for safety reasons. During the first phase last year, dead and dying trees were cleared from the park as well as those deemed unsustainable for long-term growth in a city park.

Through a series of public meetings and gatherings in 2013 and 2014, input was collected from property owners, businesses, residents and visitors on ways to best improve the landmark. From those meetings, Friends of Smith Park developed a plan and budget to transform the park into a top venue for entertainment and a place to relax amid the bustle of the city’s central business district.

“The restoration of Smith Park reflects the commitment of business owners and residents to transform downtown Jackson into the crown jewel of Mississippi’s capital city,” said John Ditto, who chairs Friends of Smith Park.

The third phase of the restoration calls for a re-designed open space with landscaped walkways, a modern stage to accommodate concerts and other entertainment, and a water pad and playground for children. Situated across the street from the Governor’s Mansion and bounded by Amite, Congress, West and Yazoo streets, Smith Park is one of the oldest continuously used city parks in America. It is the only surviving undeveloped square from the original 1822 plan for Mississippi’s then new capital.

“Smith Park is testament to what can happen when a city and its residents come together during a period of financial hardship to improve the quality of life for the entire state,” said Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners.

Named for James Smith Jr., a colorful 19th century Scottish merchant and Jackson transplant who donated funds to improve the park in 1884, the green space is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

“Mississippi gave this land to the City of Jackson in 1838 for the express purpose of being enjoyed as a park, and this project will ensure that those plans remain for future generations,” said Michael Rejebian, president of Jackson’s Downtown Neighborhood Association.