BILOXI -- New parks are coming to Biloxi, yet Councilwoman Dixie Newman doesn't want people to forget the oasis the city has at Hiller Park.
The 100-acre park between Pass Road and the Back Bay was a gift from the U.S. military to Biloxi with the stipulation it be used for recreation. Its charms are the water, the trees and the wildlife. The man-made facilities are where it's lacking.
"I love this park. I always have," Newman said. "It's a shame that we let it get run down. This should be the 'Central Park of Biloxi.'"
Newman isn't waiting until Hiller is more presentable before inviting the community. She and a volunteer committee are hosting events to bring people to the park while raising funds for new equipment and repairs.
They've raised more than $5,000 and the first priority is replacing the playground equipment that is 20 years old and looks it. Harrison County will help with that, she said, and possibly a splash pad.
Today the city council will vote to accept a $128,562 Tidelands Grant for recreational piers at the park. Cheryl Bell, Biloxi's parks and recreation director, said Gulf Coast Heritage Trails has helped with plans for a canoe and kayak blueway that will connect Hiller to the new Popp's Ferry Causeway park.
Hiller Park has a boat ramp that needs dredging, a pavilion overlooking the Back Bay that needs restoration, a softball field that needs upgrading and bridges that need repairs. Mississippi Power has agreed to resurface the basketball courts and upgrade to LED lighting and Newman said she is seeking corporate sponsorships to build new tennis courts in exchange for advertising along the fences.
The park has a 21-hole Frisbee course that draws people from Alabama and Louisiana, said Bell, but not many signs to get them there. Newman said new signs are planned, along with a nature trail and a playground for children with special needs. The city is looking for grants to finance the improvements and Newman is asking for groups and companies to help with the work and the events at Hiller Park.
The city also is completing landscaping and a shade structure at the new Waterfront Park at Point Cadet.
"It's being used already," said Bill Raymond, the city's historic administrator/executive planner. On Wednesday the city will open bids for improvements at Lighthouse Park, north of the Biloxi Lighthouse, which he said will have a pavilion with event seating for 200, a playground and a nature walk with lookouts.