Forks group makes special appeal

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 13, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; With a deadline of Dec. 31, time is running out to match a state grant for the Forks of the Road project.

So a group working to establish an interpretive center at the site are calling on lawmakers for help in securing funding for the project.

Gettye Israel, a member of the Friends of the Forks of the Road organization, faxed a letter to Sen. Trent Lott’s office Thursday asking his help in raising the balance of the funds &045; a total of $153,750.

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&uot;Senator Lott says he wants to work in the future to show he’s a solid person for Mississippi &045; and we want to invite him to Natchez to do some specific work toward that,&uot; said group President Ser Seshshab Heter-C.M. Boxley.

In February 2001, the state Department of Archives and History awarded Natchez a $200,000 grant to purchase property at the Forks of the Road.

The site, now at the intersection of Liberty Road and St. Catherine Street, was once the site of an 1800s slave market. So far, the three landowners have all refused to sell their parcels unless all the land is bought.

Proponents of the project have asked aldermen and county supervisors for financial support. And the City of Natchez has set up an account for receiving donations, an account that had raised $2,200 as of Tuesday.

The final deadline for using the grant, however, is Dec. 31 &045; or the city will lose the funds.

The efforts to bring Mississippi’s congressional delegation into fundraising efforts actually started before Lott’s much-publicized comments.

Israel sent letters to the Jackson offices of Rep. Chip Pickering and Sens. Thad Cochran and Lott in November.

&uot;I even called them afterwards, but I got no response,&uot; Israel said. &uot;I’ve never gotten a chance to speak to the decision makers.&uot;

She was told by personnel in Lott’s Jackson office to send the letter to the senator’s Washington, D.C., office, and she did so Thursday.

As of Friday, she had not gotten a response.

&uot;We’re looking for any help we can get,&uot; Israel said.