City honors NRCS grant administrator

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 28, 1999

When a hole near her house swallowed mud, leaves and even trees, Kim Strawbridge said she made herself &uot;a squeaky wheel&uot; to get it fixed.

Fearing her own children or some of the other children on Pecanwood Drive might be hurt, she lobbied the Natchez Board of Aldermen to do something about it.

What the city came up with was a nearly $58,000 grant through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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In fact, in the last seven years, the City of Natchez has received more than $13 million in federal grants for soil conservation projects.

But it is now getting harder to qualify for those grant programs, said Homer Wilkes, state coordinator for the NRCS, because of a lack of federal funds.

&uot;But we plan to still continue to work with the city,&uot; said Wilkes, who was named an honorary Natchez citizen at Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting.

Wilkes said one of the advantages Natchez has is that city officials work so well with the NRCS.

&uot;(The grants have) definitely had a positive impact on our community,&uot; City Engineer David Gardner said.

Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said the funds are harder to get, but the city just has to &uot;play the game.&uot;

&uot;And the game depends on weather,&uot; he said.

Usually, projects qualify if there has been a significant weather event – such as a strong rainfall that causes a mudslide down the bluff.

Often city officials apply for funding a second time after projects have been turned down.

What most makes Natchez eligible for the funds is its soil – loess – &uot;the most erodable soil,&uot; Gardner said.

&uot;The bayous are getting wider and wider,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s so important to go in an stabilize those banks.

&uot;Very few people in Natchez have not been touched by those funds.&uot;

Strawbridge believes those funds have meant the difference between a safe neighborhood and potential harm to her children or someone else’s.

She first noticed how dangerous the situation was when her son was led to the edge of the hole by the family dog.

&uot;It was a Sunday afternoon,&uot; she said. &uot;And I called everyone at home on Sunday.&uot;

Because of the soil conservation project, the soil isn’t sloughing off into the hole anymore, Strawbridge said.

&uot;Since they fixed it we don’t have a problem,&uot; she said. &uot;If they hadn’t fixed it I would have sold my house.&uot;