STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State's continued commitment to serving communities statewide was reinforced with a recent partnership between a team of landscape architecture majors and Pontotoc city officials.
During the 2013 fall semester, the university's John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development connected assistant professor Taze Fulford's design class with Pontotoc Mayor Jeff Stafford and other city leaders.
The project involved 16 students who developed landscaping design ideas for linking Pontotoc's downtown area with the newly opened Tanglefoot Trail, a 43.6-mile pedestrian- and bike-friendly connector passing through the city.
From New Albany at the north end to Houston at the south, Tanglefoot is the state's longest Rails-to-Trails conversion site.
"We wanted somebody fresh out of college with fresh ideas and who understands the newest technology because we want this park to be for next generations," Stafford said. "We just got a 44-mile walking trail in our backyard-- the Tanglefoot Trail. We're trying to tie it to the downtown, so we want bike lanes to go to a new Tanglefoot Park and the farmer's market in the town's square. We want to tie everything together."
In August, Fulford's class visited the proposed 10-acre site, close to the square in downtown Pontotoc. City officials visited campus in October to review students' concepts and offer feedback.
At the end of November, Fulford's class returned to Pontotoc to share their final design ideas.
Ellen Russell, director of the Pontotoc Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Association, said the MSU class provided the community exactly what it needed.
"This guidance in developing areas is what small communities need; we don't have the personnel or the knowledge to direct us that way," she said. "The students' professionalism, their attention to detail: They impressed us when they hit the ground running when they came to Pontotoc."
Ideas presented to Pontotoc leaders included, among others:
--A new amphitheater and fountain on the town square.
--Displays for public art.
--Playgrounds for children.
The designs also included water features--fish pools, fountains and streams--to highlight wetland areas and not hide or ignore them.
"This showcases what Mississippi State can do, what we can all do with a partnership," Stafford said. "We're limited in our knowledge of landscaping, but we want to build something that's going to last for generations. We want it to be a center of Pontotoc for years to come."
City officials will combine their favorite features of the students' plans before taking steps to finalize and identify funding for the new park over the next five to seven years, he said.
Joe Fratesi, Stennis Institute project manager, said he was happy the institute could play a role in uniting Pontotoc with MSU's landscape architecture program.
"We appreciate everyone for their help in bringing this project together," he said.
Fulford said the students worked many hours to come up with plans, and Pontotoc leaders will get to keep the designs after students receive their grades.
Learn more about MSU's landscape architecture programs at lalc.msstate.edu.
Mississippi State University is online at msstate.edu.