Hattiesburg, Mississippi – On Monday afternoon, Mayor Toby Barker was joined by Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado and several Parks and Recreation employees to break ground on the Duncan Lake Trail Extension.
The project, which extends the current walking trail at Duncan Lake to cover the backside of the 17-acre lake, will serve cyclists, walkers and joggers with an 8-foot path. It will also be ADA-accessible.
Due to the area’s delicate and species-rich environment, the trail has been carefully designed to not adversely affect its sandhill ecosystem that includes rare species of birds and trees not found in other habitats. This includes a 60-foot boardwalk in the middle of the trail to minimize human impact on the environment, while still giving visitors and residents an opportunity to experience the outdoors in a different way.
There are only six sandhill environments located in the State of Mississippi and only two that are housed on public lands – Duncan Lake is one of those.
“The amount of community input this project has received is the truest example of the city working with its citizens to create a recreational offering fit for its environment,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “From professors and naturalists to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Parks and Fisheries – this trail is better because of the input provided to make it a truly unique experience for all who visit.”
The trail not only adds another amenity to the park, but it connects the trail into the East Jerusalem neighborhood and beyond. The final project bid that was accepted included an add-alternate which allows the city to continue the trail on part of the Gulfport Street roadbed – extending the trail to Alcorn Street. This provides an additional entrance to Duncan Lake, with a direct access point for the neighbors of East Jerusalem.
Additionally with the Alcorn Street connection, this trail will also connect into the East Overpass roadway project. When all projects are complete, East Hardy Street will be connected to Duncan Lake, and eventually Chain Park along the Leaf and Bouie Rivers.
Barker added, “These connections create a true masterplan for the eastern side of Downtown Hattiesburg, and the ecotourism possibilities are endless when it relies on that kind of connectivity. All of that starts with this first trail extension.”
The Duncan Lake Trail Extension project is one of the 17 projects proposed under the 1-cent restaurant and hotel/motel tax, passed by citizens in 2019.
The funding for this project was announced in September 2019 after the receipt of a $120,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Federal Highway Administration that would be matched with local funding.
Total costs for the project include $293,067, with the remaining $173,067 after grand funding to be paid for by the 1-cent tax. The estimated completion date for the trail is by end of the year, pending weather.