Fort Rosalie work taken to standstill

Published 12:11am Tuesday, October 15, 2013

NATCHEZ — The government shutdown has forced the National Park Service to stop preparation at Fort Rosalie for the city’s tricentennial celebration.

The park service has contracted to have the last of the dilapidated structures removed from the site and received approval to do so from the city last week.

The contractor, Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said, is supposed to remove eight structures and concrete slabs from the site but cannot work during the government shutdown, which is now in its 15th day.

The only structures that will remain at the Fort Rosalie site are the log cabin and the house next to it.

Crews are also supposed to clear overgrowth from the site.

The work was scheduled to be completed mid-December, Jenkins said, but the shutdown may push the completion date back.

The work at Fort Rosalie is in preparation to open the site as a visitors’ attraction in time for the city’s yearlong 300th birthday celebration in 2016.

The French established Fort Rosalie, located on the bluff, in 1716. It became the nucleus of settlements from which the Mississippi Territory was founded.

NPS is also investing money this year on developing a concept plan for Fort Rosalie. The plan, Jenkins said, will look at all the different aspects of what the visitors’ experience will be like at Fort Rosalie, from parking to where the picnic area and other features will be located.

The opening of Fort Rosalie is scheduled to be near the dates of the Natchez Food and Wine Festival in 2016, and Mayor Butch Brown has said the festival might be expanded to Fort Rosalie, where period food and beverages would be served.

The shutdown has also closed the Natchez National Historical Park, Natchez Trace Parkway facilities, the William Johnson House, Melrose and other NPS sites across the country.

Jenkins said it is difficult to say now what the shutdown’s effect will be on the work at Fort Rosalie.

“It’s hard to speculate how much it’s going to throw us off,” she said. “They have projected three months of work, but if they can get started this week or next week, they may could finish by mid-December.”