MEADVILLE, Miss., Oct. 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A public-private consortium celebrated the acquisition of 150 acres of land in the scenic Homochitto National Forest near Lake Okhissa in southwest Mississippi with a ribbon cutting on Friday, Oct. 22 that will pave the way for construction of a 200-room lodge, 1,000-person conference center and related amenities.
"I'm very excited about reaching this point in realizing the (Scenic Rivers) vision ... " U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith
The ribbon cutting signals the beginning of the next phase of efforts by the Scenic Rivers Development Alliance, a coalition of local governments in five counties, to develop the property into a destination location for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, clubs, businesses and regional organizations that emphasizes tourism, economic development and education.
The land purchase was finalized earlier this year following Congress' passage of the farm bill. Jones Lang LaSalle and HVS Asset Management are providing real estate, hotel/resort and asset management services. Supporters also are partnering with Prism Hotels to develop a world-class hotel, resort and conference center on the site. Construction is expected to start late next year with opening slated for 2025.
"I'm very excited about reaching this point in realizing the vision of using the natural beauty of Lake Okhissa and southwest Mississippi to create jobs, build tourism, and strengthen our economic base," said U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. The Mississippi Republican inserted language into the farm bill to authorize the acquisition. "A lot more work needs to be done on this project, but there is no shortage of enthusiasm to get it completed. I look forward to being part of that process."
Representatives from SRDA, educators, business groups and local, state and federal government officials attended the ribbon cutting and lauded plans to jump start the project, which is expected to boost tourism, jobs, education and economic development efforts in the region.
"I'm proud to have worked with the many great people who have seen the importance of the Lake Okhissa project and the economic development impact it will have on southwest Mississippi. I look forward to the great things in store at Lake Okhissa," said Third District Congressman Michael Guest, R- Madison.
"This property is the platform which will allow southwest Mississippi to tell a rich story of outdoor activities from hunting and fishing, golf, usage of rivers and streams by outdoor enthusiasts, visitors and the general population of our state," said Joseph Parker, executive director of SRDA, an independent state entity started several years ago as a branch of the Pike County Economic Development District.
Parker said with completion of the land purchase, which relied on a variety of public and private sources, supporters can now move on to starting construction of the project, which includes a lodge, conference center, swimming pool, marina, boardwalk and overlook.
Organizers hope to use the development to expand statewide an award-winning chess program begun in Franklin County in 2015 that has won national acclaim as one of the most successful elementary school recreational and educational programs of its kind in the country. Chess teaches critical thinking, analytical and problem-solving skills that can be applied in education and business.
"This public-private partnership will be a gateway to future economic development for the Scenic Rivers region of Southwest Mississippi," said Vince Mangold, the District 53 Republican representing the area in the Mississippi House of Representatives. "(Our region) has long needed a centerpiece for outdoor recreation and soon we'll have one," said Meadville Mayor Lane B. Reed.
Franklin County Supervisor Pat Larkin echoed Reed's assessment. "Development of Lake Okhissa has long been a top priority for the county. In addition to the Lodge, our region has long needed an area for workforce training. With today's ribbon cutting, we are taking a giant step toward making that a reality."
Business leaders also said the development would help move the region forward, create jobs and boost the local economy. "I have long heard that incremental progress yields exponential results," said Bradley Jones, president of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. "Our celebration evidences incremental progress toward a regional goal."
One critical element tied to the success of the project, which is in a sparely populated area next to a national forest, will be a robust telecommunications infrastructure. C Spire CEO Hu Meena said his company is committed to continue its efforts to aggressively deploy broadband infrastructure throughout the state, including the southwest region, to support efforts to improve economic development, education, jobs and quality of life for everyone.
For more information about the Scenic Rivers Development Alliance, visit www.visitscenicrivers.com.
About Scenic Rivers Development Alliance The Scenic Rivers region is the jewel of Southwest Mississippi recreation and South Mississippi tourism. The Scenic Rivers Development Alliance is a regional effort to promote events, outdoor activities, natural and economic resources in Amite, Franklin, Pike, Walthalll and Wilkinson counties along with the city of McComb.
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SOURCE Scenic Rivers Development Alliance