Let’s Park by Lynne Cunningham

The Legion State Park has been abuzz lately with more than the stirrings of bees, birds and critters. Human stirrings has made quite a splash in the wake of a Fishing Rodeo, a tour or trees and plants along the Walking Trail and a tour of a part of the park where birds and other creatures make their home. The tour along the Walking Trail led by Dr. Lelia Kelly, botanist and professor at Miss State University, covered ground that she and Kline Shepherd, a graduate of MSU School of Forestry, had covered the day before placing labels of trees and plants at their appropriate spots. Kline designed and engineered the labels with some help from his friends, namely, Mr. Eddie Agnew, sheet metal expert. Many typical plants, your-own- backyard and garden-variety, are close at hand along the Trail and Dr. Kelly pointed out a lovely grouping of oakleaf hydrangeas striding the hollow near the starting point, plenty of large luscious white blooms just now.

Another familiar plant close by is the waxleaf myrtle, indigenous to our area and a plant the Native Americans used to make a tasty hot tea, Dr. Kelly allowed. She crushed up some of the leaves in her hand to release the pungent aroma. Dr. Kelly told us she spent the night in a LSP cabin near the lake the night before and was awakened at first light by the honking of horns (natural ones) by Canadian Geese paying a visit to our lake undoubtedly on their route to somewhere.

Another outdoor activity took place at the park when Dr. Jeanne Jones came to lead a Bird Walk, also giving special tips on habitat provided by LSP and the many forests and woods in our area. She is a professor of ornithology at Miss. State University and a special friend of LSP (she resides nearby at Sterling community). As the birders gathered at the Primitive Camp Ground to start their tour some early-risers, fitness enthusiasts were already moving briskly down the paved road, revving up their cardiovascular engines. Among this merry band were Carmen White, Melanie McNeel, Suzzane Paschal and Rhonda Porter. They waved and passed off into the distance. Low traffic, cool breezes, and sweet music of the spheres make LSP a haven for walking and running.

As Dr. Jones led her group down the trail into the wooded area; she gave out some facsimiles of bird calls and alerted the group to listen for the real thing as they progressed. She said that LSP provides habitat sustenance worth 65% of the vital amount needed for migratory birds and of course more for permanent residents. The birds and plants and all creatures in the park have a haven in the park for food and shelter with no threats from hunting or harvesting by humans. May it always be so. Focusing on plant life which sustains birds and animals, Dr. Jones picked a stem of milkweeds sporting its milky ooze and said that Monarch butterflies drink the juice making their bodies unpalatable to predators. The toxins in the juice are not harmful to the butterfly of course. A fallen dead tree was examined up close and Dr. Kelly pointed our several holes which were bird-made, allowing safe nests while the tree was still standing. A dead tree upright evidently is a “good” tree for making a nest. Deeper in the woods more bird calls were clarion and some could be identified as cardinals, woodpeckers, doves, and thrushes.

The Fishing Rodeo was ridden out by about 200 eager young anglers on May 5, and it took about as many volunteers; firemen, law enforcement officers, state safety officials, parents, cookie bakers and hot dog grillers in support of this happy event. Although the 600 or so catfish placed in the lake were very elusive the aggressive young fishermen were able to lasso in about a hundred. Sherry Hazelwood, Rodeo coordinator for Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks declared the event a success., “encouraging kids and parents to spend time together in exploring the pleasures of being outdoors and the excitement of reeling in a big catch.” Senator Giles Ward gave the opening address and welcome. Rev. Flake asked God’s blessings in the invocation and Tracy McCully beautifully sang our national anthem. Boy Scout Troop 5 led the group pledging allegiance to our stars and stripes.

Upcoming in June on Flag Day, the 14th, the Friends of the Legion State Park plan to sponsor a special commemorative celebration for the 75th anniversary of the formation of the park and to encourage everyone to take advantage of the natural beauty and usability of our local Legion State Park right at our door step. Plan to become a member of Friends of the Park, $10 annual fee or support all our state parks in purchasing a yearly pass, $42 for admittance to every state park in our fair State of Mississippi.