Walking trail funding sets a high pace

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 25, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Construction of walking and biking trails in downtown Natchez may not begin until 2007, but financing, design and marketing already have taken giant leaps, project chairman David Gardner said Wednesday.

&8220;The main funding is going to be through MDOT,&8221; Gardner said at the meeting of the Community Alliance Trails Committee. &8220;The application will be available next week, and I think we have a very good chance to get that. We&8217;re asking for $1.3 million, which is an average size request.&8221;

The Natchez Trails project proposes two trails &8212; one through the historic downtown area and another along the riverfront.

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The downtown trails, divided into north and south routes, will include kiosks and exhibit panels providing information about sites and buildings and other points of interest.

The river trails will include three separate routes at different elevations, all with sweeping views of the Mississippi River.

&8220;There probably will not be any ground breaking for a year or maybe a year and a half,&8221; Gardner said. &8220;But our goal now, which may have seemed to be ambitious, now begins to seem more realistic.&8221;

A kickoff fundraiser on April 4 resulted in donations of $14,185. Total funds donated to date are $16,185, said Tammi Gardner, who chairs the marketing and promotion committee for the project.

The committee must raise funds to match some of the grants available for funding the project.

Brett Brinegar, city grants writer, said she already has found some corporations that target the Southeast or Mississippi to award grants for projects such as the trails.

&8220;We&8217;re also looking nationwide to larger corporations, especially those with local connections,&8221; she said.

Letters requesting donations also will go out locally, said John Holyoak of the financial support committee.

&8220;Two letters will go out, one to corporations and one to individuals,&8221; Holyoak said.

Sponsorship opportunities include levels ranging from $500 to $10,000, but donations of any amount are welcome.

Sponsorships start with the Corporate Platinum $10,000-plus donation, which puts the company logo and name on a trailhead sign, trail brochures and maps.

Corporate Gold, $5,000 to $10,000 puts the logo and name of the company on the trailhead sign and recognition in the walking brochures.

Corporate Silver, $1,500 to $5,000, gets the company listed on the trailhead sign.

Other sponsorships include:

4Shining Star, $1,000 to $2,500, putting a private name or company on a metal star permanently embedded in the sidewalk near the trailhead.

4Bench Donation, $1,000 to $2,000, limited to 20 private sponsors and including a plaque inscribed with a donor&8217;s name on a bench.

4Brick Donation, $500 each, for a name included on a brick that will be part of the design at the trailhead entrance.