Residents upset over Forks project

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 1999

A push to develop the Natchez slave market site the Forks of the Road is drawing criticism from local landowners concerned about more restrictions on their property.

Natchez activist Ser Seshshab Heter-C.M. Boxley has asked the Natchez Metro Planning Commission to make the Forks in the Road a fifth tourism anchor in the city’s comprehensive plan.

The other anchors in the plan, which the planning commission will vote on at its meeting tonight, are the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, downtown convention center, Natchez National Historic Park and the Museum of Afro-American History and Culture.

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At a public hearing last week, Boxley said he would like to see the Forks of the Road site further developed, with an interpretive center or monument at the site.

&uot;Historic markers will not fill the need,&uot; Boxley said. &uot;Natchez has a problem in how it has failed to present the African-American piece of history.&uot;

But Ron Gaude, owner of electrical contractor Conrad Anderson on D’Evereux Drive, said he is opposed to further development of the site because he is worried about restrictions on his property if the site is named a national historic landmark.

&uot;I’m opposed to any restrictions,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t like the direction they’re going in.&uot;

Boxley said he understands those concerns but hopes the negative reaction can turn into a positive situation if landowners are willing to sell their property to develop the site.

City Planner David Preziosi said the commission would discuss all of the suggestions made at the public hearing.

An interpretive center would require acquisition of land, Preziosi said.

If the planning commission does not include the site as a fifth tourism anchor in the plan, the commission could choose to add it later, when the comprehensive plan is reviewed in five years.

The commission meets at 5:15 p.m. today at city council chambers on South Pearl Street.