Jacksonians Should Explore Jackson, Too

Jackson is at times a divided city, segregated along hard racial, economic and educational lines. Just consider the conversation that often takes place when the subject of the Jackson Zoo comes up in casual conversation.

"We used to go to the zoo all the time when I was little," someone is sure to wax nostalgically. "I don't go anymore because the neighborhood has just gotten so ... bad."

It's a familiar trope that has picked up steam in recent weeks as rumors swirl that the zoo may be considering a move to property on Lakeland Drive that LeFleur's Bluff State Park partly occupies.

The zoo, located on West Capitol Street, is running a deficit of $675,000 amid a drop in attendance over the past seven years. The conventional wisdom says the zoo struggles because too few people are willing to brave the zoo's rough-and-tumble west Jackson neighborhood simply to look at a tiger.

But conventional wisdom is often faulty.

In the spirit of this week's Jackpedia issue, here are a few facts about the zoo's west Jackson neighborhood, pulled from city-data.com, which aggregates zip-code information from the U.S. Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service.

Unlike much of Jackson, the neighborhood is racially split—with 595 white and 592 black residents, data show. Median household income near the zoo is $45,777 per year, which exceeds the state average of $37,696. The average home near the zoo is valued at $159,420, which is well above the state average of $99,800. In the zoo's neighborhood, 12.7 percent of people live below the poverty level; the state's poverty rate is 21.8 percent. The people who live by the zoo are also more charitable, giving 8.5 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity compared to the state average of 5.7 percent.

They sound like good folks.

Another strain in the zoo debate emerged this week when Kenneth Stokes, a Hinds County supervisor who lives close to the zoo, objected to the park's moving across town based on the fact that some people do not feel comfortable going to Lakeland Drive.

That is likely true. Some Jackson residents probably are uncomfortable visiting LeFleur's Bluff State Park and golf course, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science or the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum because they are in "white" areas. We suspect that is similar to the fear keeping some people from visiting the zoo.

There's a lot to discover in Jackson. We should all step outside our comfort zones and explore a new Jackson neighborhood, learn its history and get to know people who live there. Maybe if we all visited a part of Jackson that made us uncomfortable, we'd feel more comfortable around each other.


edinman 8 years, 1 month ago

The Jackson Zoo benefits the entire state and is worthy of support where it is. The quoted city-data statistics are wrong, however. 39209 is a huge, divided zip code consisting of two areas with over 30,000 people: an urban southern section making up much of west and south Jackson; and a rural northern section stretching from the Natchez Trace Pkwy. northward to Route 22 west of Flora in Madison County: http://tinyurl.com/kuabtoc">http://tinyurl.com/kuabtoc The 595 white/592 black figure may refer to the northern rural section. Regardless of race or income, there are conservatively 6,000 people living the in immediate West Capitol Street neighborhoods to the east, west and south of the zoo (far more than 1,200). The Hawkins Field airport is directly north, so no residential neighborhood there.


smithhm143 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm having a hard time confirming that these statistics are true to the 39209 zip code. When I type in 39209 to the city-data website it shows an area outside of Jackson, starting at the Natchez Trace and headed towards Flora. Can you provide an illustration? The reason I was asking is because the income and home values did not seem accurate at all.

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by smithhm143


edinman 8 years, 1 month ago

That map only represents the northern rural section of 39209. Do a Google map search for 39209 and it will show you the more populated west and south Jackson boundaries. Trust me, if there were only 1200 people in 39209 half of Jackson would be a ghost town.


ryannave 8 years, 1 month ago

The 39209 ZIP code, as the one commenter notes, is large, sprawling and oddly shaped, extending from west jackson near the zoo northward into rural Hinds County. To their point, it is possible that city-data.com only pulled information from the northern, more rural portion of the ZIP which would indeed skew the numbers. A more detailed analysis of Census tract data of the zoo's immediate neighborhood could be illuminating. We'll let you know what we find out. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to enjoy the zoo and the explore the rest of Jackson. -- R.L. Nave, editorial board member


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