Architects show off trails plans

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

NATCHEZ — At a community meeting Thursday afternoon, Natchez Trails project architects gave a comprehensive presentation on their plans for the project.

Dwight Weatherford, architect with Weatherford and McDade, based in Jackson, said the project is still in its early phases.

And McDade, David Gardner, project chairman and Hap Owen, the designer with Jackson-based Communication Arts Company, want community involvement and suggestions on the plan.

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The trails begin on Broadway Street and go across the north side of town, from Madison Street to Rankin while the south side covers from Washington Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

“The focus of those two trails is the history of Natchez,” Weatherford said. “There’s history pouring out at every corner, just about.”

For example, a marker could show a photograph of a pre-restoration Texada at the corner of Washington and Wall streets.

Owen said the idea is to show people as best they can what the Natchez of old looked like.

“What we’re trying to do is make this come alive to the audience,” he said.

Gardner validated what both men were trying to say.

“It’s a glimpse back in history of where you’re standing and what you’re looking at,” he said.

At the base of each sign and at every intersection along the trails will be bronze cast markers embedded in the sidewalk to point walkers in the right direction.

Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins brought up heritage tourism at Thursday’s meeting and said the city is trying to focus on it.

Gardner urged incorporating black history into the trails.

What garnered the most comments from community members was the discussion over the bluff trails.

Bluff trails will begin by Cock of the Walk with an informational kiosk. The trail running on the north side of the bluff replaces the chain link fence with a wrought iron fence.

Alongside the newly installed fence will be a eight-foot sidewalk with a four-foot planting bed separating it from a 12-foot bike path.

The south side of the bluff will have an overlook tower constructed as part of the gazebo.

It will hang slightly over the edge of the bluff, with a system of stairs that will lead down to the river.

The trail along the river also begins at the top of Roth Hill Road, then connects to a timber bridge that leads to Learned Mill Road.

Community members wanted to know more about the kiosk, which will host water fountains, seating and a bike rack.

Public bathrooms were discussed, since there aren’t any downtown, and Gardner said he would need to check the budget and see if it would allow for a public bathroom.

He said attaching a bathroom to the city-owned Cock of the Walk building could be possible.

Attendees also suggested swings, benches or some sort of seating along the bluff.

Work is projected to begin in spring 2009.