Word art, StoryWalk improve Belzoni park
BELZONI, Miss. -- A cross section of Belzoni society turned out to celebrate the opening of a new downtown attraction, a StoryWalk park that’s aimed at children but also welcomes adult interaction.
Centennial Park on West Jackson Street in downtown Belzoni now hosts bright-yellow word art that invites visitors to “share.” Within the park is the area’s first StoryWalk, a combination of literacy and physical activity.
Keltra Chandler, a Mississippi State University Extension Service associate who coordinated the StoryWalk, said these unique installations combine a walking track with a children’s storybook. Pages are displayed at stops around the track, allowing visitors to read the entire book while circling the track.
“A StoryWalk combines the joys of reading with the joys of movement,” Chandler said.
This particular storywalk and the “share” word art were brought to Belzoni by MSU Extension AIM for CHangE, which stands for Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health through Extension. The goal of this program is to create community coalitions to solve health issues alongside local champions.
Belzoni Mayor Joe Jackson said the park was already a popular place for community members to sit, and now it has some added scenery.
“The StoryWalk will give them something to do,” Jackson said. “The word ‘share’ lets them know that whatever we have is not just for us to possess, but we should share with others. And when we share, we’re growing together.”
A ribbon cutting was held May 16 to open the StoryWalk and word art, and this location joins a green “grow” word art installation at the community garden and a red “move” word art installation at the city’s playground and ballpark.
All were part of an AIM for CHangE project that united a range of partners to bring to completion. AIM for CHangE is funded through the Extension Service by a grant from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention. A landscape architecture class at MSU designed, built and installed the words, including the solar panels and light strips to illuminate them at night.
Abbey Franovich, an MSU professor of landscape architecture, oversaw her students’ part of the project.
“Our goal with this project is to enhance visibility to these great community locations,” Franovich said.
Regina Boykins, the Extension agent in Humphreys County, praised the work of Franovich and her students.
“This was a dedicated group of people who successfully completed the task well and created a beautiful work for Belzoni,” Boykins said. “This is just what our community needs not just for an environmental uplifting, but also one that’s going to uplift the mindset of the people as well.”
Emily Tillman-Donovan, president of the Belzoni Humphreys Development Foundation, said the StoryWalk will be important to children, and a community is not a community without children.
“It may seem like such a small thing, but in a place like this, it is a huge quality of life improvement because there are not enough things for our children to do,” Tillman-Donovan said. “We have a lot of leaders in our community now who want to see Belzoni grow. They don’t want to just go to work, do their job and go home, but they want to do more because they want to see Belzoni be more.”