By Jef Rietsma
The makeover of Oswalt Park, which Vicksburg officials expect to be the centerpiece of the village’s downtown district, is progressing on schedule.
Once complete, the park on the northwest corner of North Main Street and West Prairie Street will feature a number of inviting amenities.
“Our goal was to make it the central, local, cool, chill-vibe hangout area of downtown Vicksburg, and that’s the direction we gave to the designer,” Village Manager Jim Mallery said. “It is meant to fit with the social district.”
The revived Oswalt Park will complement a new-look downtown district emerging from a year-long infrastructure project that saw the heart of the village in disarray for much of 2021.
Mallery said expectations are at an all-time high regarding Vicksburg’s appeal as a destination community.
“We knew we had invested in a complete, new streetscape for downtown,” he said. “We doubled the sidewalks, made it a more walkable area, added all the benches, charging stations, pop-outs that will be hang-out areas, then we had a park that was 70 feet by 100 feet, and that was the mission; it had to fit the appearance of the new-look downtown.”
The park’s centerpiece will be a fireplace that was installed in late April. The fireplace includes a heat element, allowing it to be in operation as late into the year as November. Mallery said it’s not a coincidence that the upgraded park falls within the village’s social district. He said pedestrian traffic will likely be attracted to the park.
Mallery said the village made a concerted effort to ensure general-fund dollars from the village’s coffers were not used toward the $250,000 park redevelopment cost.
“A huge shout-out to Dan Oswalt and Oswalt Electric for their donation of labor, which I know is being provided at a considerable cost,” he said. “We also need to recognize the business community for raising $63,000.”
The $63,000 was matched by a $50,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and another $50,000 from the Vicksburg Foundation.
The balance was secured through fundraisers, Mallery said, adding Oswalt Park improvements first appeared on the village’s radar in 2017.
Mallery said a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to commemorate the reopening of downtown will take place at 4 p.m. June 2. By then, Oswalt Park will be 90 percent completed, he said.
“From there, we’ll roll into festival season and Vicksburg will never see festivals like what it will see in 2022,” he said. “Each month, we’re going to use downtown like never before. It’s going to be an economic engine and a great source of optimism.”
By Jef Rietsma