City on its way to 2,000 crape myrtles

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Sallie Ballard wants her hometown covered with crape myrtles. Now the city is closer to Ballard’s goal of &uot;2000 for 2000&uot; thanks to a tree-planting grant from the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Tuesday morning, officials from those departments and the city gathered for a ceremony to celebrate the $14,897.50 grant, which will be matched with more than $17,000 in in-kind work from the city.

Natchez is one of 16 communities to receive a grant for the project but is the first city to have begin planting the trees.

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The money will help plant 246 crape myrtle and dogwood trees throughout Natchez.

Ballard was among those who ceremonially tossed a shovelful of dirt to help plant a new tree at the intersection of Melrose-Montebello Parkway and U.S. 61 South.

&uot;I think it’s wonderful,&uot; she said. &uot;We’re going to plant them throughout the community, and everyone will be involved. That’s what we wanted – we wanted a unification program.&uot;

Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said the tree planting will help the city achieve a Tree City USA&160;designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

James Sledge, state forester for the Mississippi Forestry Commission, said the grant is a good fit for the city.

&uot;Natchez has a long history of beauty and civic pride,&uot; Sledge said. &uot;To see a city like Natchez improving its aesthtic quality is really what this project is about.&uot;

Ken Warren, executive director of the department of transportation, said the department has set aside $31 million in transportation enhancement funds for projects like the tree planting grants.

&uot;These little small things add to the attractiveness of a community,&uot; Warren said.

Natchez will plant 246 trees. Along George F. West Boulevard, 74 crape myrtles will be planted. Forty dogwoods will be planted on Duncan Avenue; 24 crape myrtles on Canal Street; 72 crape myrtles on Melrose-Montebello Parkway; and 36 crape myrtles on Brenham Avenue.

The project is a joint effort of the city’s engineering, planning and public works departments and the community development office.

In addition, the city’s Recreation Department has received a $10,000 tree-planting grant from the state Forestry Commission. The money will be part of a $20,000 shrub, tree and sod-planting project in Duncan Park.

Among the scheduled plantings:

Crape myrtles along Duncan Avenue and golf hole No. 11

Magnolias along Duncan Park Road and golf holes 12 and 16

Red cedar trees around the tennis courts

Bald cypress trees around the Duncan Park lakes on golf holes 10, 15 and 16

Magnolia fuscata banana bushes and zoysia grass in front of the Duncan Park Golf Shop building.