MLK extension still opposed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 1999

A public hearing on the city’s proposed comprehensive plan Thursday brought more vocal opposition to the possibility of extending Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

But Metro Planning Commission Chairwoman Deborah Martin said most members of the commission do not support the plan.

The planning commission will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, in city council chambers to vote on recommendation of the comprehensive plan. Martin said the commission will likely leave out the MLK extension from the plan.

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But she said the board of aldermen could include the extension when the board votes on adoption of the plan.

City Engineer David Gardner had written a letter to the commission advising members that traffic flow could increase because of the downtown convention center.

&uot;To me, this is like the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’&uot; said Natchez resident Nan Garrison. &uot;If you build it, they will come. Why are we talking about doing this? We don’t have a convention center yet. We don’t know if (the traffic) is going to come.&uot;

In the original plan, which looks at Natchez’s possibilities for growth in the next 20 years, it was recommended MLK Street be extended and widened. Widening has now been left out.

&uot;There’s no way if they open up MLK they wouldn’t have to widen it,&uot; said Mimi Miller, director of preservation for the&160;Historic Natchez&160;Foundation. &uot;And it would be a preservation nightmare.&uot;

No one at the meeting spoke in favor of the MLK extension, but other comments on the plan came from Natchez activist Ser Seshshab Heter C.M. Boxley, who asked that more provisions be made for African-American tourism.

Boxley said the Forks of the Road site should be considered a fifth anchor for tourism. The four anchors in the plan are the Natchez Visitors Reception Center, Natchez National Historic Park, convention center and the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African-American History museum.

Boxley said the site – which could include an interpretation center or park – would fill a need to present the story of black history in Natchez.

Larry Smith, a planner with Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, which helped the city devise the plan, reminded the audience that the plan is not set in stone, and covers the next 20 years of Natchez’s future.