Local, state leaders meet to begin hashing out Trace details

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 3, 2000

As a bill authorizing extension of the Natchez Trace Parkway sat before the president Thursday, local and state leaders met in Natchez to discuss details of the Trace’s path down Liberty Road.

Representatives of the National Park Service, the Natchez Trace Parkway Commission, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture and the Natchez-Adams School District joined the Natchez Board of Aldermen and Adams County Supervisors for a review of the current acquisition plans and a discussion of specific concerns relating to the Trace extension.

Senate Bill 2020, first introduced by Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott in February, passed the Senate over the summer and garnered House approval Tuesday.

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City attorney Walter Brown said the expectation is that $71 million in preapproved funds should be available for right-of-way acquisition by Nov. 16.

&uot;As soon as we have the funds, we can begin making offers,&uot; said Howell Herring, Ridgepoint Realty. The city contracted Ridgepoint to negotiate rights-of-way acquisition for the project.

Forty separate parcels of land are affected by the Trace extension, including 46 relocations.

Herring said all the response from residents has been positive. &uot;I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a project where people have been so ready to have a road come through,&uot; he said.

Terry Estes, school board member, said he would like the park service to consider an exchange of land with the school district before plans are finalized. &uot;We’re getting pushed in there where if we ever wanted to expand, we’d know where to go,&uot; Estes said. Estes said he is also concerned about access and parking for the high school and ballfields, because two of adjacent Liberty Park’s four entrances will be overtaken by the Trace extension.

&uot;We need a master plan for Liberty Road and school access as well as the relationship between the bean field and the school district,&uot; Brown agreed.

Bill 2020 also gives the park service authorization to lease the bean field to the city for recreational use. Earlier this year, the city and the park service negotiated an agreement to lease the bean field so the city could build a $16 million sports complex on the site.

Ward 3 Alderwoman and public properties chairwoman Sue Stedman said city officials are still hopeful of the complex plans, but funding would have to become available before more definite plans can be made.

Herring said two county buildings, the road manager’s office, which also serves as the sanitation department, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture service center, will be demolished to make room for the Trace. The county, as well as the city, will be reimbursed for loss of land and properties in connection with the extension.

&uot;What we want you to do is come before the board as soon as possible and make us that offer,&uot; Adams County Board of Supervisors President Virginia Salmon told Herring.

Wendell Simpson, park service superintendent, said he hopes all parties involved will stay in close contact about the evolving project plans, but emphasized the need for expedience.

Project funding must be dedicated before Oct. 2003 or the $71 million reverts back to the federal government, Simpson said.

&uot;That’s the magic number, that’s the magic time,&uot; he said. &uot;We have to have those funds obligated by Oct. 30 2003 or we lose that money.&uot;

Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said he thought the meeting was profitable and gave all parties an opportunity to share ideas and concerns.