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Public input on phase two of trails sought

NATCHEZ — Hundreds of shoes and a few dozen paws have treaded on the nice new sidewalks along the bluff since Phase one of the Natchez Trails project has been partially completed, and now, its time to concentrate on plans for Phase two.

The St. Catherine Street Trails Project planners are asking for the public’s input for Phase two, which will focus on the history of African Americans in Natchez, at a 6 p.m. meeting Thursday at Holy Family Catholic School.

The Historic Natchez Foundation and the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African-American Culture Museum, the groups hosting the meeting with Holy Family, need help generating content for approximately 30 historic panels that will be installed along the route. They are seeking that information from current residents and people whose families might have once lived or operated businesses along the St. Catherine Street area, Historic Natchez Foundation Director Mimi Miller said.

Attendees will also get a chance to view historic images that have already been assembled for the panels.

City officials from the Engineering Department will present the proposed plans for Phase two, which is grant-funded, and seek general input from St. Catherine Street residents and business owners.

Miller said she is seeking pictures of people and families who lived in the neighborhood, buildings that once stood on St. Catherine Street, or its side streets, and activities at Brumfield School and churches along the street.

The St. Catherine Street Trails Project will extend along St. Catherine Street from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street to the site of the Forks of the Road slave markets.

Like the first phase of the Natchez Trails Project, the second phase will include upgraded sidewalks, landscaping and interpretive panels, Miller said.

Expanding the trails project along St. Catherine Street represents a major investment in improving a historic neighborhood and interpreting its history, Miller said.

“St. Catherine Street will become a more attractive and pedestrian friendly neighborhood (with the completion of the project),” Miller said.

“(Phase two elements) will offer a warmer welcome to the many visitors who enter our city from the north.”

City Engineer David Gardner said St. Catherine Street needs landscaping and work on its sidewalk, and the trails project offers an opportunity to do the work and highlight the area’s history.

Gardner agreed the project would improve the area as an entrance to town, saying based on past infrastructure projects, he expects the neighborhood surrounding St. Catherine Street to undergo revitalization with the completion of the project.

“(Infrastructure improvements) spur a lot of personal interest of the people that live there,” Gardner said. “They tend to paint their houses, cut their grass and take more pride (in their property).”

Gardner said Phase one displayed a comprehensive theme of Natchez’s history, focusing on its different occupancies and all races, for instance, but the theme of Phase two will narrow in on the theme of African American history.

Gardner the St. Catherine Street route was an obvious choice because of its layers of African American history with the Forks of the Road and the Rhythm Night Club site.

The goal of the trails project is to eventually have it extend to the Natchez Trace. Gardner said he is unsure how many phases it will take to get there.

Miller said The Foundation would promptly scan and return photographs lent to them for the panels.

The meeting will be in Holy Family’s cafeteria, which fronts Orange Avenue and stands at the rear of the historic church building. Refreshments will be served.

Those who want to share historic information for Phase two panels that cannot attend the meeting can contact NAPAAC or Mimi Miller at the Historic Natchez Foundation 601-442-2500.

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