Photo by Sue WatsonPhil Walker and Ralph Moore led a community meeting to discuss strategic planning for the City of Holly Springs as it relates to general tourism and heritage tourism. Walker has been hired to help the city determine what it wants to emphasize and to offer tourists in order to attract them to the city. The event was held at The Bottomless Cup.
Meeting focuses on downtown, tourism
Downtown revitalization and heritage tourism were the topics of a community gathering to help build consensus on attracting visitors to the City of Holly Springs. It will be a 10-year plan.
Consultants Phil Walker and Ralph Moore provided the results of a survey or questionaire that was circulated to determine what residents of the city want to emphasize in a strategic plan as far as downtown and tourism.
About 72 people responded to the 20-question survey.
Walker said following consensus building, a steering committee will be formed and staffing hired to plan a strategy for downtown revitalization and for heritage tourism.
Sources of funding to implement the plan will be required as a part of the campaign.
An Ambassadors program will be emphasized to attempt to get the community thinking positive thoughts on community development and how to attract visitors.
Moore told the mayor and Holly Springs Board of Aldermen, in a brief report, that the plan will require bold decisions that will take the community to the next level. And there is a price tag attached to the decision, he said.
“I applaud you for where you are today and hope you can move to the next level,” Moore said.
Mayor Kelvin Buck added that progress does not just happen.
“Somebody has to do something,” he said.
He said community partners and real money is needed as a part of the process.
“We cannot lose the momentum,” Buck said. “It won’t be free. It takes a little money.”
Visioning project report
Walker reviewed the relationship communities develop with tourism and how some areas like Tupelo emphasize music because it is the homeplace of Elvis. Oxford stresses literature and the arts because it is the homeplace of William Faulkner. Holly Springs was studied for its history — African Americans, Chickasaw roots, the Civil War and historic architecture, art and music.
Part of the architectural heritage includes preservation of structures on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Downtown revitalization goes hand in hand with historic places to visit,” Walker said.
Some buildings, such as Chalmers Institute, Carnegie Hall at MI College and the Marshall County Courthouse are currently being rehabilitated. Others are waiting.
With increased tourism comes parking problems. Spaces will have to be kept open for visitors while office professionals park off the square.
The upper floors of downtown buildings should be put to better use.
In the report, the types of heritage tourism were ranked. African American heritage topped the list.
Architecture and art ranked number two. Civil War came in third. The Blues ranked fourth and Chickasaw history fifth.
The type of architecture plays a heavy role in defining the character of downtown, Walker said.
About 50 percent of respondents to the survey thought emphasis should be placed on enslaved people and architecture, from Holly Springs’ history.
About 75 percent thought saving Carnegie Hall was important. Chalmers Institute was voted by about 60 percent as worth further investment.
“People see that building as being kept up,” said Walker. “It looks like proof that it (restoring Chalmers) is going to happen.”
The majority of respondents thought it is important for local governments to support the Holly Springs Main Street Chamber.
Ranking of most important issues found economic vitality first. Commercial entities should promote downtown.
Interest in having a place for Rust College students to participate downtown was ranked high. Students want a place to hang out.
A Holly Springs Ambassadors campaign should be implemented. Positive promotion of the community by citizens was seen as highly important. Shopping locally was highly important.
Sources of funding of a strategic plan for tourism included local governments, the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Rust College.