Progress Luncheon 2015

Check Presentation

 On Wednesday, during the Longleaf Trace's eighth annual progress report, Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King presented Trace officials with a check for $250,535 for improvements to the trail's intersections. King and former U.S. Congressman Ronnie Shows also were honored with proclamations.

The funds will be used for intersection improvements on the 41-mile path that runs from Hattiesburg to Prentiss, particularly on the area around Jackson Road.

"There are some 300,000 activities on the trail that cross (Jackson Road) annually," Trace manager Herlon Pierce said. "It's become a potential real problem, as far as the speed on the streets, the number of bikers that are crossing. It's not like it was in the early days — now it's almost constant

"So we'll improve the safety of those intersections up to the fullest extent that's possible with current technology. There'll be various types of warning lights, both on the trail and the streets. There'll be double bars, reminders that there's something ahead, flashing lights. We'll also improve sight distance, so (travelers) can see even further down."

This year's progress report held many more highlights for 2015, including but not limited to:

•Completion of a $17,000, 80-car, crushed limestone parking lot located immediately west of the Jackson Road Station.

•A 22-foot by 54-foot pavilion, completed in April adjacent to the new Jackson Road parking lot. The pavilion was constructed with the help of a recreational grant administered through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks.

•The installation of new mile marker signs to replace the original 15-year-old signs.

The day also marked a special occasion for King and former senator, congressman and transportation commissioner Ronnie Shows, both of whom were honored with proclamations for their contributions to the Longleaf Trace. The proclamations were issued by Hattiesburg attorney Carey Varnado.

Ronnie Shows

Shows also will have an upcoming nature center named in his honor. The center, which will be built at Mile Marker 13 on the Trace adjacent to the Denbury Beaver Pond, will feature a 20-foot by 30-foot activity pavilion, 10 equestrian stalls, 10 primitive campsites, cabins and an amphitheater/classroom.

Nature Center Plans

"It's going to be the focal off-trail site of the district," Pierce said. "It'll be a major recreational facility, which we think will be a major attraction to commuters, to schoolchildren who want to use the amphitheater, to nature people who want to do nature training. We think there'll be all kinds of things to occur out there."

In addition, a recently-constructed 48-vehicle parking lot located adjacent to the James Lynn Cartlidge Gateway, near the University of Southern Mississippi, will be named for King.

"We had previously had to share parking with USM — that wasn't pleasant at all," Pierce said. "It was a little 20-space area out there, and we were having to tow students' cars, and we hated to tow them. And you didn't know what to do when you had a crowd coming in. It was just a problem."