Channeling the History of the Mississippi River: Multi-Use Recreation Center Harkens to Yesteryear for the Sake of Its Present-Day Residents

Article excerpt

This past March, the Mississippi River played host to more than just insects and alligators. The historic river became the savior to the town of Tunica, Miss., with the grand opening of the Tunica RiverPark, a multi-use recreation center built along the riverbank.

Tunica has had a history of poverty for decades, and has been considered the lowest income-producing county per capita in the continental United States, according to the 1980 and 1990 U.S. Census Bureau reports.

Even though an influx of casinos in the early 1990s brought income into the county, Tunica's council members believed something else was needed to really change the current for its residents. In 1999, a consulting firm was hired to suggest ways to convert Tunica from a decaying port city to a vibrant tourist destination. The firm made 15 recommendations, from golf courses to state-of-the-art theaters, but they all had one thing in common: use the Mississippi River.

The $26-million River-Park stands as a symbol of the future of Tunica. With a 37,000-square-foot museum and visitor's center, a 1.9-mile walking trail, boardwalks, a cruising boat, observation deck and freshwater aquarium, Tunica RiverPark will fulfill its expectations to the county.

"[Tunica RiverPark is] an opportunity to enhance someone's visit so that they would enjoy it more, and it would help us to have more people come to Tunica for tourism opportunities," says Tunica County Adiministrator Ken Murphree.

Tunica is ranked the third largest casino area in the country falling behind Las Vegas, Nev., and Atlantic City, N. …