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Forks of the Road should be preserved

Natchez is lucky, or perhaps blessed. Through a combination of not being a strategic battle location in the Civil War and having smart residents that realized decades ago the importance of history, much of Natchez is well preserved.

That’s not the case in many, many cities and towns across Mississippi and other parts of the country where historically significant sites become homes to housing developments, shopping centers and the like.

Balancing development needs and historic preservation desires is always a bit tricky. But sometimes seeing a problem brewing isn’t terribly difficult and finding a solution isn’t either.

Although it represents an ugly part of our past, the Forks of the Road slavery market site is an internationally recognized historical site. So Natchez aldermen, who soon will determine the future of an adjacent property, should take that recognition into consideration.

A housing developer has just received permission from the city to rezone the property, setting the stage for the next step — site plan approval.

The National Park Service has completed a study of the Forks site and determined the site should ultimately become part of Natchez National Historical Park. All that’s lacking is congressional legislation authorizing the move.

Sadly, the Forks of the Road site was nearly lost to history as modern day developments encroached onto the site.

But the city shouldn’t allow further development around the site. We appreciate the fact that a developer seeks to build something new in the city, but clearly better locations with far less meaningful history exist. We urge the city’s leadership to help pledge to preserve and protect the integrity — or what’s left of it — of this important Natchez site.