Don’t plan on visiting the county’s Hernando DeSoto Park on the Mississippi River anytime soon to catch a glimpse of the rising waters or a setting sun in the evening.
The park has been closed until further notice and with what’s expected from Mother Nature in the next week, more water is on the way and there won’t be any photogenic sunsets over the river expected anyway.
Rainfall is expected to be a part of the forecast through Saturday to add to what has already fallen in the Mid-South during the week.
With that news, Ray Laughter, County Director of Environmental Services and Parks & Greenways, told the Board of Supervisors at their meeting Tuesday morning in Hernando it has been determined the park needs to be closed due to safety concerns. Recent rains and expected additional rainfall during the next week has swollen the waters over banks and now covers a roadway entering the park area.
The flooding is making it hazardous to be at the facility, Laughter said.
“The river is not something to play around with a strong undertow,” he explained to the board. “The gate is closed but the problem is people are walking out there. We’ll make an announcement when it is safe and the river goes back down, but I’m sure even when that happens there will be a lot of clean up to do afterwards.”
Laughter has monitored the park and its water problems since the past weekend and has watched the flooding grow daily.
“We just want the public to be aware so they don't go down there,” Laughter said. “I rode down there Sunday myself and there were people trying to get around the barricades and things like that. It’s rising a little quicker than anticipated but it’s going to be there at least until March 4-5.”
On another matter, supervisors asked its Transportation Committee and Road Department to study ways to slow down speeding traffic on the county’s portion of Robertson Gin Road.
Resident Kelly Jacobs appealed to board members and pointed to the results of a traffic study she said was presented at a recent City of Hernando Planning Commission, results she said reflect her experiences near her home in the county.
“A report on a traffic study was presented at the Hernando Planning Commission meeting this past Tuesday night,” Jacobs said. “ It was reported how many cars went over 80 and even 100 miles per hour and the room gasped. There has also been a horrific traffic accident right there on Robertson Gin and two teenagers are fighting for their lives.”
Jacobs also talked about how she herself has seen the results of speed along the roadway in front of her home.
“I have lived on Robertson Gin Road for 25 years and we had a young man die right in front of our house,” Jacobs said. “He went crashing into a tree while we were in our yard, in that area where the curve is between the airport and the baseball fields.”
One thing board members decided should be done quickly is for the Sheriff’s Department to place a “speed monitor” along the road to indicate how fast motorists are driving. Drivers typically do slow down when they are reminded just how fast they are actually traveling, it was mentioned during the discussion.
In the planning portion of Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors denied an appeal made by M&I Properties of a decision to deny a conditional use for a convenience store. The planned Red Banks Convenience Store, at the corner of Red Banks and Byhalia Road, had asked to be able to provide gasoline service at the store.
Attorney Bill Brown, representing M&I, gave a lengthy presentation as part of a public hearing.
“We have solutions and experts to talk about the solutions we have come up with for concerns about trash running off,” Brown told the board. He also had experts about the safety of gasoline tanks at the site.
“We’re not here to ask for a rezoning,” Brown said. “But nevertheless, it appears to us that there was a mistake in the 1994 zoning, because there were gas tanks there to begin with, so it should have been zoned C-2 to begin with and not C-1.”
The conditional use being sought would have allowed for pumps to be installed as an accessory use for the store, but was fought by several residents who appeared at the meeting to argue against appeal.
Board members supported the residents by a 4-1 vote.
In other planning action, an application for rezoning of property from AR to AR Overlay with The Orchard at Stewart Road and Highway 305 was tabled for 30 days and another application for rezoning of 4.5 acres of property at Highway 178 and south of Miller Road was approved.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.