The city of Hernando is set to move forward on enhancements to the city’s Renasant Park after receiving more than $1.7 million from the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, or MOSTF.
The grant award was revealed in June of this year. The city is adding more than $763,000 in matching funds for the project.
It is the first round of funding under the MOSTF program, which was first passed in the 2022 state Legislature and signed by Gov. Tate Reeves. The total amount of funding under the program totaled $9.8 million for 21 conservation and outdoor recreation projects. This initial allocation of funding is being matched by more than $31.4 million from other sources.
Mayor Chip Johnson said the grant to Hernando was the largest non-transportation grant from the state the city has ever received, and Community Development Director Gia Matheny, who wrote the grant request, said the city is still learning more details and specifics about the the award.
“We were notified of the award this summer, but because it is so new, we’re still working out the details with the state and we will be getting the executed agreement by the end of the month,” Matheny said. “This will help us now to start to really fund and move forward with projects at Renasant Park that are in our master plan.”
The enhancements covered with the grant award will include natural resource-based recreation, environmental education, eco-tourism and sustainability by funding multi-use trails, natural spaces, disc golf, a 2,000 square foot open air pavilion with event area, a 3.5 acre native grass/wildflower meadow, restrooms, native tree planting, removal of invasive species, and lighting and parking.
“These are things that are part of the master plan that everybody was wanting to see in Hernando,” Matheny said.
Johnson said the city was grateful for the support of local legislators, including state Rep. Bill Kinkade, part of the committee that pushed the legislation forward, along with state Rep. Jerry Darnell and state Sen. Michael McLendon. The mayor said the city quickly applied for funding once the MOSTF bill was passed and signed by the governor.
“We went to (MOSTF Executive Director) Ricky Flynt with the map of our master plan, laid it on a table, and asked what portions of this plan fit your grant,” Johnson said. “We then applied for things that fit the grant. Baseball and tennis don’t fit this grant, even though they are in our master plan. The outdoor trails, disc golf course, and other items did fit it.”
The Hernando grant came in only the first round of funding and applications in another round for 2023 are now being accepted, utilizing $15 million in funding appropriated during the 2023 legislative session. The MOSTF Board of Trustees is now accepting grant applications through Oct. 31.
“These investments will strengthen communities around Mississippi, enhance our state’s $8 billion outdoor recreation economy, and help support more than 79,000 jobs,” said Reeves. “I was proud to have signed legislation creating the Fund, and I’m proud of the work we’re doing to preserve Mississippi’s natural beauty and resources.”
Applications may only be accepted from state agencies, municipalities, and non-government organizations. Interested applicants can go to the MOSTF Website at https://www.dfa.ms.gov/most to review the Notice to Applicants and the Application Scoring Criteria. Applications must be submitted online.