The new horse park and the Lowndes County Extension Office can be seen in this aerial photograph. The second and final phase is nearing completion, with bleachers, railing and a gravel parking lot to be added, among other improvements. A tractor will also be purchased to maintain the ground of the arena. The total cost of the project is $2.2 million. Photo by: Courtesy photo
October 10, 2019 10:10:56 AM
Mississippi State Extension Service Agent Reid Nevins expects to have a new 4-H director for Lowndes County by the end of the year.
The program that person takes over will be far different than it was under the previous director, Sharon Patrick, thanks primarily to the county's new $2.6 million horse park complex on Tom Rose Road.
On Monday, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors authorized payment for up to $50,000 for the 4-H position. The director is an employee of the Extension service, but the county reimburses the state organization for the director's salary.
"The board order went out Monday and my boss picked it up (Tuesday)," said Nevins, who oversees operations of the extension service in Lowndes County. "We'll get it over to Mississippi State and they'll advertise the position. Over the next few weeks, they'll get the resumes of the people who applied and pick four or five people to interview. We might make that hire by the end of the year, but if not, certainly we hope to have somebody by January."
Nevins said there are currently more than 300 kids who are active in Lowndes County 4-H. He expects that number to increase as the new facility expands programs, especially livestock and horse-related programs.
"We're already growing," Nevins said. "So, yeah, we expect to see it continue to grow. This will allow us to take it to a whole new level. We have 300 or so on our mailing list, but we've reached thousands more through our programs and schools and other events. We expect those numbers to really grow."
The horse park is located on a 22-acre site and includes a 5,000 square-foot office complex that is home to the Extension service and 4-H. The biggest feature, a 45,000 square-foot covered open air arena, is not yet finished.
"As far as our long range plans, there's a lot we want to do," said board of supervisors president Harry Sanders. "But for right now, we have a punch list of about $60,000 that our contractor needs to complete."
Nevins said that even in its unfinished state, the arena has been used.
"We can utilize it, even though we haven't opened it up," Nevins said. "We've already had some events there. We had a conservation field day last week for about 250 kids from around the county. In the past we've had it at Lake Lowndes. If we had had that at Lake Lowndes (this year), you could burn slap up.
"It's not for just horses and livestock," he added. "We can use it for anything you need a covered space for, when it's raining or hot outside."
Nevins said he hopes to have work completed and necessary equipment purchased -- a tractor to maintain the dirt surface of the area, rails and stalls for livestock, bleachers and a graveled parking lot for horse trailers soon.
"We've had a lot of people calling wanting to use it to ride their horses, but we can't do that until we have this equipment in place," Nevins said.
Nevins said the benefits of the arena go beyond 4-H.
"All sorts of groups are interested," Nevins said. "The East Mississippi Community College rodeo team has called, so has Silverstock, a barrel-racing group. When we get everything place, I think we can see something going on out here every weekend."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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