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                    OPC Outdoors goes back in time with prehistoric fossil trip






By John Davis
Community Relations Director

BLUE SPRINGS — Less than half a mile away from the location where one of man’s most modern inventions is manufactured, prehistoric fossils lie ready to be found by those willing to dig.  

In the shadow of the Toyota plant is a dug out pit that fossil and outdoor enthusiasts looking to learn about North Mississippi from 70 million years ago will enjoy immensely. 

The Coon Creek Formation runs through certain portions of Northeast Mississippi, and OPC Outdoors took young fossil collectors, and their parents, on a trip back in time.  

Thanks to the generous time granted by George Phillips, Paleontology Curator at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, trip explorers were able to extensively learn about the fossil bed located in Blue Springs, as well as actually get down in the dirt to retrieve and collect.  

Phillips told the participants that the fossil bed was first found in the late 1970s when road work between highways 178 and 78 was being completed. The first Blue Springs site was mined and studied by Dr. Gale Bishop of Georgia Southern. Phillips said over a dozen new species of crabs were found in the area. Not only were they new species to researchers here, but also new to researchers on a global scale.  

“He started exploring other parts of this area. There was a pond dug in the ‘60s and he found fossils along the pond,” Phillips said about Bishop’s work. “It wasn’t until 2006, 2007 when word got around that they were going to build the Toyota plant, we, those of us in geology, got out here as soon as the digging started. We monitored it for the next several years.” 

Ever since the exposure was uncovered during construction, the site has been visited by professionals, educators and those wanting to learn. 

“Over the last dozen years, people from all over the world have come here to collect the fossils in this unprecedented exposure of the Coon Creek Formation,” Phillips said. “Mississippi had never had an exposure of these fossil beds. For years, we were waiting on a public access to investigate this site. There are very few sites like this around the world. This is chock full of shells. The clay and sandy sediment here preserve such a great variety of things.” 

Blue Springs was one of two stops made during the excursion. Phillips first met the group at Flat Rock Church, a site near Hickory Flat. Some digging started before rain cancelled plans. There was enough time for Phillips to show the differences between sites. He told the class that the preservation of fossils has a lot to do with the chemistry of the surrounding area.  

“The area here (at Blue Springs) is a magical mixture, a Goldilocks mixture of sediments to preserve these fossils,” he said. “There are also a lot of diverse organisms, in this case marine organisms, that existed in a shallow bay. Pretend that you are looking at the sediment that is below the bottom of Mobile Bay. That’s the kind of things you will be finding out here. Lots of shells, shark teeth. On occasion we will find urchins. They are very rare.” 

Many of the items found during the fossil trip were oysters. Shellfish, crabs and lobsters also lived in the Mississippi Embayment 70 million years ago. Phillips told the participants that the shoreline during that time period would have been closer to Corinth or Tishomingo County. According to information provided through a website dedicated to geology, Coon Creek, which also includes parts of western Tennessee and Kentucky, eastern Arkansas, and even southeast Missouri, was much like southern Florida is now. That means semi-tropical temperatures, and waves from tropical storms like hurricanes churned up the shallow parts of the sea floor. The Blue Springs site would have been located in that shallower part of the thumb-print shaped bay.


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By John Davis
Community Relations Director

Sometimes a longer wait ends up producing the best outcome. The new Oxford Park Commission activity center has been desired since 1998 and discussed in earnest for almost two handful of years. Thanks to the hard work put in by the members of Innovative Construction Management, work on the new activity center is about to begin.

Ever since April of 2016, Casey Rogers, the president of ICM, and his team have been working with city and community leaders on a plan to make talk turn into action. What started out as a discussion between the city and the university regarding a facility that would house indoor tennis, ICM worked with everyone involved to navigate the waters of development and actually get a project together that was truly suitable for everyone in the community.

The new $11.5 million project is efficient and stunning all at the same time. Pryor Morrow Architects joined forces with Ernest Joyner of Sink Combs to design the project. Joyner’s vast resume includes several Olympic projects around the world. The combined efforts produced a design that was stunning and efficient at the same time.

“The project team have maximized your program with the available funds. The building is extremely efficient and at the same time, it looks really good,” Rogers said. “We spent a lot of time pushing back and forth with the design team during the design phase on material selection, construction methods, layout, etc. in order to maximize the project scope. In every project the dynamics of scope, quality, and budget dictate the end product. By asking questions, such as: substituting materials here and there to gain more space for gymnastics without sacrificing quality, the team was able to produce the most efficient building. It’s about working with the architect to get everything just right. The amount of work that has been put into the project to get us to the point of pushing dirt, is amazing. Very few projects in the state of Mississippi have had this amount of planning involved. We do that with every job, but it’s rare and I think we’re unique in the amount of planning we do.”

A systematic approach to construction is what ICM offers clients. The activity center is the second project that ICM is working on with the city. The other is the new parking garage that will be placed off the Square. Rogers said the goal is to work really hard during design phase in order to improve the design documents to therefore reduce or eliminate costly change orders during the construction phase that plague most construction projects.

“We have a plan and that plan should not only be what the building looks like but also incorporate schedule milestones, production rates, quality control procedures, etc” Rogers said. “What happens on projects is on bid day, when they think they have a good deal and are on budget, as they go through construction process, change orders keep happening and they’re suddenly over budget halfway or three quarters of the way through.”

“What we say is let’s be proactive verses reactive. Let’s bring our construction knowledge into the design phase,” Rogers continued. “We have over $1 billion worth of construction knowledge in house. We bring all those experiences of being out in the cold and in the mud and putting things together. We know how to build buildings and so let’s bring that knowledge into the design phase to work with the architect who knows how to make things look pretty and design spaces.”

The new activity center will take a year to complete. It’s expected to be open to the public in December of 2018. On top of the new basketball courts and courts that can be used for pickle ball, the community will have a walking track above the court as well as new lounging space that can be utilized in between athletic events.
 

 

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Oxford Park Commission

396 Price Street 
Oxford, Mississippi 38655

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 662-232-2379

Contact Us

Oxford Park Commission

396 Price Street 
Oxford, Mississippi 38655

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 662-232-2379

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