Gulfport children protest to keep grant funding in Soria City park

Gulfport children protest to keep grant funding in Soria City park

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Residents in a Gulfport neighborhood are protesting after they say city leaders are trying to take funds away from a community park.

Children in the Soria City neighborhood organized a protest Tuesday to voice what they want to see in a piece of city-owned land they call Bullis Avenue Park.

Some of the kids who live in the area say the barren asphalt lot with basketball hoops and a surrounding fence leaves little for its visitors.

“There’s really nothing to do so we just come here and play for a minute but then it gets boring so we just leave,” said Aubrina Hubbard.

Tacorey Young has similar feelings. “Usually we have fun but we make our own way out of it.”

Residents were excited to see $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds coming to the property back in 2019. However, the city has since proposed to instead use the money for a new project called Urban Renewal Landscape Improvements.

“It feels like basically someone just kicked this community in the gut and said we don’t care,” said Gulfport Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines.

Now, the community and its supporters are rallying ahead of a public hearing on Wednesday to voice their concerns.

“It’s kind of messed up that we have nothing and other parks have everything else,” Hubbard said.

The Soria City community has been without an official park since Gulfport gave back the Willie Lock Park to the school district years ago.

Residents say that means the city property on Bullis Avenue is that much more important to them.

“These kids need somewhere to play,” Holmes-Hines said.

The neighborhood also wants more care and upkeep done to the park, which is a job a nearby neighbor stepped up to do in order to help her community.

“When anything goes on out here, I do it,” Nay Smith said. “We don’t have any help out here with these kids.”

Smith gathers donated toys, bicycles and more for children to play with at the park.

But with most of the items either damaged or worn out, Smith and others in the community hope the city’s proposal is denied and Soria City receives the funds originally allocated to them.

“We need the money so we can build new stuff,” Young said.

The public hearing will be at Gulfport City Hall on Wednesday, October 21 at 5 p.m.

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