Aldermen to discuss rec study funds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Natchez aldermen are expected to consider in their Monday meeting whether to spend $10,000 to help fund an archeological study of the &uot;beanfield&uot; site, the proposed location of a planned recreation complex.

&uot;I don’t see why we wouldn’t,&uot; said Alderman Jake Middleton. &uot;We (board members) all see the need for more recreation. … And we’re asking the county to help fund this, too, because these facilities would be used by all of Adams County.&uot;

The City of Natchez is also asking the Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez-Adams School Board to each allocate $10,000 for the study. Private sources would be asked to come up with another $10,000, said Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

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The funding was discussed during a meeting Natchez and School Board officials held June 11 on the subject of recreation. Adams County supervisors said they had scheduling conflicts and could not attend the meeting.

&uot;This way, the U.S. Department of the Interior … could do the study this summer,&uot;&160;Smith said. &uot;If we don’t commit to this (funding), it could be at least another year before they could get the study done, and I&160;don’t want to lose a year.&uot;

&uot;I’m afraid that if we don’t do it, we’ll be in this same position next year,&uot; Middleton said. &uot;We need to step up to the plate, all of us.&uot;

After more than a year of discussions regarding a planned a $3 million recreation complex at the beanfield site near Natchez High, local officials learned that the National Park Service, which owns the land, will not permit any major excavation on the 100-plus acres.

A Senate bill passed last fall cleared the way for the park service to enter into a long-term lease agreement with Natchez for recreational purposes. But park service officials said their policy is to allow leases no longer than five years.

In any case, a costly archeological survey to determine the boundaries of historic land on the property will be necessary.

At least part of the land has been identified as the &uot;French Concession,&uot; destroyed by Natchez Indians in an uprising. Another portion may be connected with English settlers.

In their Monday meeting, Adams County supervisors took no action on the funding request. Supervisors Virginia Salmon and Darryl Grennell expressed concern that the property could only be leased for five years at a time.

&uot;And once the survey has been done, there are still limits to what you can do with construction on any piece of ground with archeological significance,&uot; Salmon said. &uot;I don’t know how you can establish a good sports complex if you can’t disturb the ground.&uot;