Extreme Makeover: Smith Park Edition

by Charles Nugent

arts & life editor

Major changes may be coming to the historic Smith Park in downtown Jackson, which sits right behind the Governor’s Mansion. Forty years ago the park was designed to be a nice, quiet place in the middle of downtown with gardens, streams and walkways. Since it was originally designed, however, many of the plants have died and much of the infrastructure has become outdated. Now Downtown Jackson Partners, TeamJXN, and Friends of Smith Park are leading an initiative to renovate the park and turn it into a world-class public space.

Laura Johns, Executive Director of TeamJXN, offered some insight into TeamJXN’s involvement in the Smith Park initiative. TeamJXN formed about four years ago, but Johns says it has really taken off in the past six to eight months and has more than 100 businesses and 100 individuals as members. She also adds that TeamJXN formed because Jackson needed a group of people that were invested in the city to help it continue to grow and achieve its full potential, citing other similar cities, such as Birmingham, Alabama, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as other cities with similar groups helping the city grow its creative arts.

Downtown Jackson Partners, headed by Ben Allen, did the initial research on costs for the Smith Park initiative and now TeamJXN and Friends of Smith Park, headed by John Ditto, have joined in to help realize the goal of renovating the historic park. Johns says that the main goal is to transform the park into an area for audiovisual showcases and music shows, and to make it a more attractive place for people to hangout.

Johns said that involvement from the citizens of Jackson is vital in making this happen, stating that “Most things happen when you get real people behind an initiative, not just a city council or committee.” The best way for people to get involved would be to sign the petition, volunteer or make a donation on teamjxn.com.