Ridgeland made good use of a $50,000 grant from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi for its community-wide efforts to promote health and fitness. Named Mississippi’s Healthiest Hometown in 2013 by the foundation, the city added fitness equipment at Friendship Park, Freedom Ridge Park and the Ridgeland Multiuse Trailhead Facility.
“Grant funds from the Healthy Hometown program afforded us the opportunity to add fitness equipment at various locations to benefit our city,” said Chris Chance, director of recreation and parks. “We want people to make good use of their leisure time.”
Freedom Ridge consists of soccer fields and softball/baseball fields, four pavilions, special event space, three playgrounds and a walking trail. The park hosts 30 tournaments for baseball, softball and soccer throughout the year. Friendship Park is a multipurpose neighborhood park that offers a lighted pavilion, a one-mile lighted walking trail, a fitness court, playground equipment and restroom facilities.
Ridgeland will construct an extension to the multiuse trail system along Jackson Street adjacent to Trace Station Shopping Center and extend a third of a mile to Trace Ridge Drive. This multiuse path will link Trace Ridge subdivision with existing paths that run west toward Jackson Street’s pedestrian-friendly market area. “Avid riders will enjoy connecting at Highway 51 and Jackson Street and riding along a scenic route that parallels the Natchez Trace Parkway to connect with local attractions such as the Mississippi Craft Center and Ross Barnett Reservoir,” said Chris Bryson, engineer, City of Ridgeland.
One of the department’s goals is to provide opportunities that will improve the quality of life for both city residents and those from surrounding communities, Chance noted. Ridgeland’s long-range plan is to allow users to take the multiuse trail anywhere in the city, he added. “All of these things contribute to the quality of life.”
In 2018, Ridgeland will open the Zelda & Wayne Parker Miracle League Field at Wolcott Park. The baseball field features a rubber surface to allow for those in wheelchairs or with other assistive devices to enjoy playing the game of baseball, and will allow Ridgeland Recreation & Parks to expand on its tradition of providing recreational activities for special needs populations. Completed in March, the project was funded entirely through private donations to the Miracle League of Central Mississippi.
In addition to Miracle League Baseball, Ridgeland offers special needs recreational programs for basketball (HOOPS), soccer (TopSoccer) and baseball/softball (Challenger League). Ridgeland also partners with Mississippi Special Olympics to provide opportunities in softball, flag football, basketball and other sports for differently-abled individuals.
The city hosts numerous sports tournaments throughout the year, another good way to attract visitors from all across the state, region and southeast, Chance said. “We enjoy showing visitors what Ridgeland is all about.”
Bicyclists, hikers and joggers flock to Ridgeland’s 15-mile multiuse trail. The trail runs east-west across the city, parallel to assorted roads, and a large section winds through scenic wooded terrain adjacent to Natchez Trace. Several side routes lead to shopping areas and schools. Each year, the trail also hosts special events, including the Mayor’s Fun Walk and the Heatwave Classic Triathlon. The October walk is a component of the city’s initiative to promote exercise and a healthy lifestyle, while the triathlon, a 29 year tradition, includes a half-mile swim in the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a 24.5-mile bike ride along the Natchez Trace Parkway and a 10K run on Ridgeland’s multiuse trail. Athletes from throughout the Southeast are drawn to the event, sanctioned by USA Triathlon.
NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY
The Natchez Trace Parkway is the country’s eighth-most visited national park. Designated as a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road, the route is filled with historic and scenic spots along the way.
Established as part of the National Park System in 1938, the Natchez Trace Parkway spans three states and is considered by many to be the most historically significant highway of the Old Southwest. Used by travelers as the United States expanded west in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the historic road was traveled by many famous Americans including Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis and James Audubon.
Crossing four ecosystems and eight major watersheds, the Natchez Trace is a habitat for nearly 1,500 species of plants, 33 mammal species, 134 bird species and 70 species of reptiles and amphibians. More than 13 million visitors use the Trace annually for hiking, cycling, sightseeing and commuting.
Featuring a scenic mix of forests, ridges and swamps, the Natchez Trace offers a number of recreational sites near Ridgeland, including The Yockanookany picnic area, Ratliff Ferry, River Bend picnic area and Cypress Swamp. Campgrounds, water recreation areas and hiking trails also are available for visitors. The Natchez Trace Century Ride, which takes place in the spring, is an annual bike ride for all ages and ability levels. Choice of distances range from 25 to 100 miles.
ROSS BARNETT RESERVOIR
The Ross Barnett Reservoir, spanning 105 miles of shoreline, offers boating, sailing, watersports, camping, fishing and a multitude of sites for picnics and bird watching events. National and regional fishing tournaments, weekend regattas and seasonal festivals frequently take place at the reservoir.
Swimming, picnics and soaking in the scenery are popular pastimes at Lakeshore Park, while a boat launch, disc golf course, public picnic shelters, rental pavilions and lots of open space for family fun, are available at Pelahatchie Shore Park. Highlighted by a pavilion for tournaments, boat launches with piers, a boat slip and overnight camping facilities, Goshen Springs is a fisherman’s mecca. Eighteen miles of paved trails for walking, jogging, bicycling and sightseeing connect neighborhoods and shopping areas surrounding the reservoir.
Old Trace Park located in Ridgeland is home to a multiuse trail, playground, grills and pavilions, dog park and the Ridgeland Recreational Center. It is the site of the popular Pepsi Pops Concert by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra every May.