Natchez Trails Project funded

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 21, 2009

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Trails Project is one of four transportation improvement projects statewide to receive funding from the Delta Region Transportation Development Program.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., announced this week the Natchez Trails Project has received $607,623 — fantastic news for City Engineer and Trails Project Chairman David Gardner.

“We greatly appreciate Sen. Cochran, the Federal Highway Administration and the Mississippi Department of Transportation for their assistance in this,” Gardner said. “We’re planning on using the money for the second phase of the project.”

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Gardner said the second phase of the trail will run along St. Catherine Street, Forks of the Road, Liberty Road and end at Natchez Trace Parkway. Interpretive signs noting the city’s black history will accent the recreational route.

Gardner and former City Grants Coordinator Brett Brinegar acquired a $171,000 no-match grant for black history exhibits for the project’s second phase in September. The grant, coupled with the latest funds, will help tell a more complete story, Gardner said.

“(The money) will help us get started,” Gardner said. “We’re extremely excited about this appropriation because there’s a lot of African-American history there to be told.”

The first phase of the project, —  $2.9 million venture — has been fully funded via government earmarks, matching grants and private contributions totaling $380,000, Gardner said.

The first phase includes 5.6 miles trails running along Broadway, High, Rankin, Washington and Martin Luther King streets. Interpretive signs outlining city history will dot the route.

In addition, trails will run along three tiers down Broadway Street, Silver Street, Roth Hill Road, Learned Mill Road and the bank of the river. A timber bridge will travel through the wooded area on the bluff.

“We’re planning on putting a plaza in front of the Cock of the Walk area — a brick plaza with seating and a pavilion,” Gardner said. (The plaza) will be the trail head.”

Gardner said the city will advertise bids for the first phase Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, and receive bids Jan. 12. Gardner expects to begin design planning for the second phase this spring.

“It’s going to be an exciting trail and a fun way to re-explore and learn about the history of Natchez,” Gardner said. “But it’s also a good way to exercise and enjoy Natchez.”