- Associated Press - Thursday, July 24, 2014

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - A funding request to convert land west of the Tombigbee River on The Island in Columbus into a man-made beach and park has been denied.

In May, the city unveiled a design plan for a 5-acre parcel. River Island Park would include a beach front, sloped concrete sidewalk, stairs and a boardwalk. The city applied for a $61,450 grant through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The total cost of the project is $122,900.

Wildlife agency grant administrator Jean Caraway tells The Commercial Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1A6nTrM ) the grant wasn’t forwarded to the National Park Service because the request was for access to the site not recreation.

City planner and grant administrator Christina Berry says the state agency’s notice is a small setback for the project. She said the city will try again.

“We’ll definitely look at this opportunity next year. I’ll see where we could have been more competitive and also look for other grant opportunities to assist the city in its Island redevelopment efforts,” she said.

The beach concept was designed to make property surrounding the city-owned land more appealing to a private developer pursuing a commercial or residential development, Berry told councilmen in May.

The Island was created by dredging of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in the 1970s. The nearly-800 acre stretch of land was once an industrial and commercial hub for Columbus. The opening of a new bypass to U.S. Highway 82 caused development to decline as businesses relocated for better accessibility.

With restoration underway on the old Highway 82 bridge spanning the waterway, interest in the area has resurged.

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com