Project could get $200K

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; A group working to establish a series of walking trails along the Mississippi River bluff and through downtown is close to receiving $200,000 in federal funding toward that project.

Representatives of U.S. Rep. Charles W. &8220;Chip&8221; Pickering&8217;s Washington office said the bill that includes that funding has been passed by the Senate and is now waiting on the president&8217;s signature.

The same appropriations bill also includes $100,000 for long-range community planning for the City of Natchez. Although Mayor Philip West has long talked about the need for a new comprehensive plan for the city&8217;s development, limits on the use of that funding weren&8217;t available as of press time.

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&8220;That&8217;s great news,&8221; City Engineer David Gardner said of news the trails request is close to being funded. Provided the bill is signed into law, &8220;that means the project can start to go forward.&8221;

Gardner added a big &8220;hats off&8221; to Connie Taunton, director of visitor services for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, for writing the grant.

Earlier this month, Gardner received word the group had gotten a $25,000 no-match grant from the Lower Mississippi Delta Regional Initiative for the project.

The funding was applied for through Keith Whisenant, former superintendent of Natchez National Historical Park.

The project &8212; conceived by a Community Alliance committee, with plans drawn up by Gardner &8212; would cost an estimated $1.31 million to $1.58 million.

The project would include a blufftop trail, a middle trail and a trail along the riverbank itself. It would also include a trail bounded by High and Main streets and a trail bounded by Main and Washington streets. Kiosks detailing the history, geology and archeology of the area, including photos of the way downtown looked in bygone days, would be along the trails.