WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - The Pat Harrison Waterway District of Mississippi is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. That state agency operates nine water parks throughout East Central and Southeast Mississippi.
Friday morning, Flint Creek Water Park in Wiggins hosted an anniversary celebration. They gathered near the shore of the picturesque 600 acre lake at Flint Creek. This popular recreation spot in Wiggins was the flagship facility for the Pat Harrison Waterway District.
"Another reason that makes Mississippi such a wonderful place to live, raise a family, work and retire here is the God given beauty. And I think this is a perfect, panoramic justification of what I mean by that. This is gorgeous," said guest speaker, 4th District Congressman Steven Palazzo.
Flood control was the main mission of the Pat Harrison Waterway District when it was formed in 1962.
"Flood control over the years has developed to the point that you have a lot of cities, towns and rural areas that are useable now simply because we don't have the same flooding we used to have years ago," said Waterway Commissioner Jake White.
Recreation is also an objective of the district.
"That's all bream," said Jim Rabby, pointing to a black and white photo of three men with a stringer full of fish. He fondly recalls a 1969 fishing trip at the newly opened Flint Creek.
"We caught a lot of fish. You can see in the picture. And I'm not going to name names, but at least two of us had scouted the area before the opening. And so we knew where to go to fish. We caught a lot of fish that day. It was a great memory," he said.
"This place stays booked all the time. And it's just a great asset for the citizens of Stone County and for the State of Mississippi," said Stone County Supervisor Scott Stricklin.
While most folks associate recreation with Flint Creek Lake, it could also serve as an emergency water supply, should that need ever arise.
"If it ever comes to it, the City of Wiggins could actually use Flint Creek Reservoir as a public water supply. A lot of people don't realize that," said Stewart Smith with the Pat Harrison Waterway District.
A study several years ago estimated the facilities operated by the Pat Harrison Waterway District had an economic impact of $20 million a year in the 15 counties served by the district.