Thursday, July 6, 2006
Legislators tour Holly Springs
By SUE WATSON
Members of a state delegation toured Strawberry Plains Audubon Center and Walter Place Estate, Cottages and Gardens last week on a two-day trip in the northeastern portion of Mississippi. Their goal is to learn more about what the state has to offer in its growing tourism industry.
Representatives and senators will be better informed and able to plan solid legislation that will strengthen and serve the needs of the state’s tourism and economic growth and development, according to Sen. Scottie Cuevas of Pass Christian, chairman of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
Mike and Jorja Lynn provided a personal tour of Polk and Featherston cottages and the new botanical gardens at Walter Place Estate. Afterward the delegation and members of the Mississippi Tourism Association and Mississippi Division of Tourism sat down for lunch at Walter Place.
There Mike Lynn made a pitch for the Holly Springs Tourism Bureau and plea for support in the form of operating dollars. Lynn is chairman of the Holly Springs Tourism Bureau board of directors.
“With you being in the legislature, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to talk about money,” he said.
He noted the private endowment and 2,500 acres of land left to the National Audubon Society which is known today as the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center. Mike and Jorja Lynn have invested approximately $5 million in the development of Walter Place Estates, Cottages and Gardens.
Lynn emphasized the private investment in tourism and economic and community development in just the two properties.
“Guess what, folks, you don’t have to put up a dime,” he said. “What you see here today at Strawberry Plains and Walter Place is $10 million. No local, state or federal tax money is in this.”
“We are asking you for enough for us to successfully promote what we are doing. That’s all we’re asking.”
At the dinner table the Holly Springs Tourism Bureau left figures of what it would mean to the economy of Holly Springs to have 100 visitors a day.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry applauded the private investments being made in tourism in Holly Springs saying it draws on the rich history and cultural heritage of the city and region.
In that regard, the mayor said how fortunate Holly Springs has been - that the city has basically “gotten out of the way” so private investment can go forward to help showcase the architectural and cultural history of the city.
Lynn added that tourism is picking up and that private investment does draw tourists to the area.
“I can tell you we are up close to 30 percent in tourism tax collection in one year since we’ve opened (the Botanical Gardens),” Lynn said.
Representatives and senators who signed up for the tour included in the House, Diane Peranich, Billy Broomfield, Ricky Cummings, Harvey Moss, Reecy Dickson, Rita Martinson, Bill Miles, Bobby Moak, Randall Patterson, Gary Staples, Sara Thomas, Jessica Upshaw, Debbie Woods, Speaker McCoy, Steve Holland, and in the Senate, Willie Simmons.
The tour began in Oxford, came through Holly Springs and Corinth and ended in Tupelo. This is the third legislative tour with previous ones covering the Mississippi Delta and the Jackson and coastal areas.
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