A park in one Mid-South neighborhood is unfinished business

The money's in the bank, but a park in one Mid-South neighborhood is unfinished business. Your tax dollars paid to design a public park in Cordova. Three years later, still no park. Shelby County taxpayers shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for those plans back in 2002. Today, those plans still sit on a shelf, because it's no longer the county's problem.

The kids really don't have a public place to play other than their elementary school. Before they were born, Shelby County officials made plans to turn a strip of land behind Chimneyrock Elementary into a park. But that was more than ten years ago, and there's still no park. Jake Brown, Countrywood resident said, "I'd like to see something get done, but frankly I'm a little skeptical of whether anything's going to happen." He's skeptical because back in 1994, Shelby County Government set aside 350-thousand dollars of its Capital Improvement Budget to turn a 12 acre site into Countrywood Park. Later, the budget for the park was upped to one million dollars. But the plan was pushed back and the money never spent until 2002, when taxpayers shelled out nearly 50-thousand dollars for a private firm to draw up plans for the park. It shows pavilions, play areas, picnic areas and trails, but more than two years later, still nothing. Karen Campbell, Countrywood resident said, "To take taxpayers' money to do that, to start out doing that, and then not do anything about it, it's a total waste." But there's a good reason why the County hasn't done anything with those plans. Turns out the whole area is no longer County property. The City recently annexed it, and its plans are still up in the air. Marilyn Loeffel, Shelby County Commission said, "We want it built the way it was designed. We just fell in love with that design and we've waited long enough. We'd like to have one like that." But there's a hitch. The land isn't owned by the City of Memphis or Shelby County. The County Conservation Board, the body appointed by Mayor A C Wharton to acquire, develop, and maintain public parks, still holds the deed. And board members say they won't give it up without some assurances from the City.

Scott McCormick, Memphis City Council said, "Those dollars that they've spent won't be wasted. It's a plus for the city to acquire the land that will basically be at no cost, and the design work that they've already done will hopefully be implemented into the design of the park that we ultimately produce." City officials say their goal is to keep the County's plans in mind, but won't make any guarantees. McCormmick said, "There are other demands and other needs, but I'll be fighting for Countrywood to make sure that's a top priority." Though right now there's no money in the City budget for the project, and with a million dollar price tag, it looks like taxpayers who've already paid tens of thousands of dollars for the plans will have to wait a while longer for the park. City leaders are looking for other ways to pay for the park, including reaching out to private companies in the community. But no one knows if the park will end up looking anything like the plans taxpayers already paid for, if it's built at all.