Archived Story

Natchez owes Byrnes debt of gratitude

Published 12:01am Sunday, May 12, 2013

When we think about the Natchez Trace Parkway, history is the first word that often comes to mind.

But perhaps a better phrase should be “economic development.”

Most of us are familiar with the historical aspects of the Natchez Trace. We’ve read about the road’s early days as a series of Native American footpaths.

Those trails were important to the Native Americans, but became a critical thoroughfare for early American settlers who used the Trace as a means of travel and commerce.

The Trace almost died off, until a group of volunteers, led by Natchez’s own Roane Fleming Byrnes, championed the Trace and the federal government’s involvement in it.

Today, the Trace is one of the most heavily visited National Parks in the federal system.

Ironically, despite its ban on commercial traffic, the Trace is surprisingly good at bringing dollars into Natchez — and the other towns along the route.

Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the Trace. Many of them wind up in Natchez.

Of course, that was Byrnes’ hope back in the 1930s when she first began championing the Trace.

It’s proof that a good idea, some hard work and determination can yield results for decades and decades to come.

As the Trace celebrates 75 years since it was completed, we pause to say “thanks” to the late Byrnes. Her determination has certainly brought millions of dollars in tourism to Natchez over the years.