1114 Hernando DeSoto Park SECOND LEAD.jpg

Two Northwest DeSoto Center students help in plantings at the Hernando DeSoto River Park on Friday, Nov. 8. The science department worked with the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors in a beautification project at the park along the Mississippi River west of Lake Cormorant.  

It’s called a “hidden gem,” tucked away in the far reaches of DeSoto County. The Hernando DeSoto River Park west of Lake Cormorant is home to a shelter in front of the lapping waters of the Mississippi River and other amenities for residents and visitors to come watch ships travel Ol’ Man River while enjoying the beautiful scenery and stunning sunsets with the river as its foreground.

The 41-acre Hernando DeSoto River Park is the county’s only public access to the Mississippi River and is open from just before sunrise to just after sunset daily.

While the scenery is beautiful in and of itself, the “hidden gem” is becoming more stunning with a partnership of DeSoto County government and the science department of the Northwest DeSoto Center campus in Southaven.

A group of students, led by instructor Dr. Darrell Barnes, came to the park this past week to plant flowers, bushes, and magnolias at the park, said County Environmental Services Director Ray Laughter, who also oversees the county park facilities.

“This is a group effort between the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors and Northwest DeSoto Center’s science department,” Laughter explained. “(Dr. Darrell) Barnes had reached out to us about doing some projects in the community to help beautify our parks. They’re here with students from his science department to help us create an inviting environment here at the Hernando DeSoto River Park.”

It’s not the first time for the partnership between the county and DeSoto Center, and Barnes said it won’t be the last time, either.

“We participated in the recent Household Hazardous Waste Day a while back and then we were able to plan to landscape the park on the river,” Barnes pointed out. “We plan to help keep DeSoto County prettier and prettier.”

Laughter explained the items being planted ranged from box holly bushes to magnolias and pansies. They were planted in the fall with expectations they would be planted to be more resistant from the potential for high river water in the spring.

“It’s going to be just a beginning of our relationship with them (DeSoto Center),” Laughter said. “We’ve got plans for some of the other parks and they’re going to help us as the spring rolls in. We just want to get a good winter planting in down here before the spring rains come.”

Barnes designed the landscape layout for the area. District 3 Supervisor Bill Russell came out last Friday afternoon to help in the planting.

Barnes added he and Dr. Lindsay Massie believe projects like this help his students be more well-rounded and more attractive to future employers.

“We are all about involving the students in the environment and in the community, because we believe that scholastics and knowledge is one thing, but being involved in the community is another thing,” Barnes said. “We think that helps build real character and personalities that help make these students great hires for the future. We’re about building students with degrees, with experience, and helping the community.”

Olive Branch landscaper Donnie Oxner donated the plants, flowers and trees for the river park, and also helped out in the labor.

People who use the area will now enjoy the landscaping additions as they come out to fish, grill, have picnics, or just watch the river roll by.

“The natural beauty of the Hernando DeSoto River Park was amplified through this community partnership between the Board of Supervisors, NWCC, and Oxner’s Land Services,” said Laughter. “On behalf of the Board, we sincerely appreciate the students’ willingness to brave the frigid temperatures while helping make DeSoto County a better place to live, work, play, and worship.”

Plans are also in the works with Entergy, the Yazoo River Basin Levee Board, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to install lights at the park in the future.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.