Locals express concern with Serengeti Springs Waterpark

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Construction of the Serengeti Springs waterpark is underway at the Hattiesburg Zoo.

While the city of Hattiesburg collectively expressed their excitement for the Hattiesburg Zoo’s Serengeti Springs waterpark that is scheduled to open this summer, some residents and business owners have conveyed their concern with the traffic and parking situation that comes with the fun.  

 

The future site of the water park rests on Hardy Street, where construction is currently taking place. The water park will be a part of the zoo’s expansion and will replace the Cameron Field baseball park. Kamper Park, where the zoo is located, is part of a neighborhood and businesses area, where some Hattiesburg locals are worried about the effects that this new attraction will have on their homes and businesses.  

 

Eric Davis is a Kamper Park resident who lives near the attraction site. Davis has two young children, and is worried that patrons of the water park will not drive safely in the area.  

 

“I have little ones I want to walk with, I want to run with them, I want to ride bikes and I can’t really do that if there’s a lot of traffic, a lot of people not obeying traffic [laws],” Davis said. “I think it’s one of those things where you put something permanent like a roundabout, very similar [to] what they have on Hardy Street.” 

 

Adriana Morin is the owner of the Electric Lounge Hair Salon, which is across from the construction of the water park. She believes that this might be a positive for some businesses, but fears it will negatively impact her business.   

 

“I just want to make it clear I am pro waterpark in Hattiesburg, just not the location it’s in,” Morin said. “I just think traffic is going to be the main issue. It’s directly [across from] my salon and the businesses beside me are directly across from where the giraffes are.”  

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I just want to make it clear I am pro waterpark in Hattiesburg, just not the location it’s in”

— Adriana Morin

She loves working close to the zoo, but fears added traffic and illegal parkers will keep her customers from getting to her shop. 

 

“I get to see giraffes every day, which is lovely,” Morin said. “[But] I think Hardy Street is not wide enough to sustain a good flow of traffic in that area. [What] might be a problem is people parking in the parking lot reserved for our customers, so hopefully not but I don’t know, maybe the tow trucks are going make a lot of money this summer.”  

 

While Davis still recognizes these concerns relating to the park, he seems to be excited for the water park, and commented that the site will “bring a great atmosphere to Hardy.”  

 

“We’re just seven houses down from the waterpark and the zoo. So we’re super excited to have an opportunity in the summer for them to do stuff, get out, enjoy life, enjoy the zoo, enjoy the water park, and just overall enjoy being in community together.” Davis said.   

 

While these concerns remained prevalent among residents in the area, Hattiesburg mayor Toby Barker is doing his best to ease their worries. Barker has remained optimistic of the success of the water park since it was announced in late 2022. Barker believes that the new attraction will bring in a plethora of tourists to Hattiesburg, but is aware of the traffic and parking situation that would come with newcomers to the city.  

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From day one, I think there’s always some growing pains”

— Mayor Toby Barker

What we’ve done is, you know, we’ve expanded the parking lot or are expanding the parking lot that comes up Park Avenue by the water billing office. So people won’t be able to go on 19th Avenue and then park on the side of the street, you know, among the houses and then come over…They’ll also be able to park in the Hardy Street Baptist church parking lot, which is used already for the zoo,” Barker said. 

 

The project is estimated to cost $10.5 million and is funded by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission from revenues earned and a special 2% restaurant tax, according the mayor’s office. At its completion, Serengeti Springs at the Hattiesburg Zoo is designed to be self-sufficient and profitable 

 

“We’re installing a 10-foot sidewalk along Hardy street replacing the old three foot sidewalk that’s extremely dangerous,” Barker said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that everything is going to be great. From day one, I think there’s always some growing pains.”  

 

The 12-acre Hattiesburg Zoo opened in 1950 at Kamper Park, a 40-acre tract of land donated to the city by John Kamper in 1908. Currently the park contains the zoo, tennis courts, a playground and a walking trail.