Bluff should be public property

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Right now we have a golden opportunity to rethink, reorganize and redevelop our city’s most important tourist attraction — the bluff, which is the highest elevation along the entire Mississippi River.

The Natchez bluff is comprised of loess soil, which exists in only three locations in the United States and few other spots on earth. The loess hills of Iowa are recognized as significant and listed as a National Natural Landmark. The Natchez bluff is equally important and is a natural wonder in its own right, deserving the same recognition.

On March, 10, 1804, the Eighth Congress of the United States granted the strip of land to the City of Natchez with the understanding that “it shall be preserved forever as a public ground for the health, comfort and enjoyment of all citizens and strangers indiscriminately; and shall never be built on, or cultivated; but, on the contrary, shall be disposed into public walks and lawns, and planted with trees … and so maintained by it as long as it exists.”

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Twenty-three years ago, in 1987, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History working with officers and members of the National Historical Society presented to Mississippi’s congressional representatives the idea of the entire bluff being a National Park centered around the site of Fort Rosalie. Sen. John Stennis, chair of the senate appropriations committee and Rep. Jamie Whitten, chair of the house appropriations committee supported a resulting bill. The bill passed both houses of Congress enabling President Reagan to authorize Fort Rosalie and the antebellum house Melrose, which was added during the process under the guidance of the Historic Natchez Foundation, as the Natchez National Historical Park a year after the ideas were developed by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

All of it was accomplished by interested citizens, who understood that they Mississippi River has been an integral part of American history in many ways including serving as the western boundary of the original colonies for some four generations during the 1700s. Spanish authorities, in the latter part of the century, designated the bluff as public promenade and the focal point of the community.

The Natchez Democrat could be the driving force to stimulate our community (leaders and citizens) to recognize the important history of the bluff and work toward bringing it back to its original intent — public grounds.

The City of Natchez, as your Sept. 16 editorial suggested, should return the CD money to Worley Brown in return for the land.

The city could then find it economically feasible to give the land it owns to the Natchez National Historical Park. To do so would enhance the park, remove the responsibility of upkeep to the city and offer our community and our visitors an unparalleled place to enjoy forever.

Nancy and John Williams

Natchez residents