Roth Hill public park proposed

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NATCHEZ — Two attorneys of Natchez-Adams County boards’ past came together Tuesday to discuss their vision for the city’s biggest untapped resource — the riverfront.

Former Adams County Board of Supervisors attorney Marion Smith and former Natchez Board of Aldermen attorney Walter Brown stood at twin podiums at the aldermen meeting and appealed to the board to consider building a public park at foot of Roth Hill to compliment the Natchez Trails Project.

Brown said he and Smith discussed the idea of developing Roth Hill after listening to a trails project update from City Engineer David Gardner at the recent literary and cinema festival.

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“In my lifetime, I can’t think of anything that has had a greater impact on the City of Natchez than this trails project with its focus on history, and it gives us a great opportunity to do even more,” Smith said.

Brown said Natchez should market its unique view of the river by developing the area.

“(Natchez) is probably the most spectacular spot on the Mississippi river; ours’ is the only one that has a bluff view and below view to look at,” Brown said. “How can we utilize that?”

Smith said the history of the foot of Roth Hill should also be highlighted.

Developing Roth Hill would give something for families, both local and tourists, something to do, especially on Sundays when most businesses are closed, Brown said.

“When you come to a place you’re looking for something to do,” Brown said.

Brown said he and Smith have talked with Phil Walker, Natchez’s former city planner from 1991 to 1993 who currently has a planning practice in Nashville, Tenn., about ideas for riverfront park development.

Walker offered Memphis, Tenn.’s Mud Island park and museum as an example of what the park could feature.

Like the trails project, Smith said the park could provide recreational and educational experiences for adults and children.

“It’s intergenerational,” Smith said. “We think it’s a win-win situation.”

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said at the city used to have a thriving under-the-hill, which has since been underused.

“One of things I see so many times is how disassociated the city has become from its soul of the river,” Dillard said.

Dillard said he supported Brown and Smith’s idea and wanted also to see the trails project extend down Silver Street.

Brown and Dillard also noted the potential economic impact of developing Roth Hill.

“We need to put ourselves back in the economic development game and start to appreciate the bluff,” Dillard said.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis asked Brown and Smith if they had specific plans.

“The first step is to get Mr. (City Planner Bob) Nix and (Phil) Walker to (develop) an updated master plan,” Brown said.

Plans formerly developed for Roth Hill must be redrawn because of changes such as the bluff stabilization project, Brown said.

“The trails project the signature project of this administration,” Brown said. “It’s a wonderful experience, but it’s not over.”

The board later voted at its meeting to grant casino developers, Natchez Enterprises, an extension on its lease of Roth Hill for up to six months. If the Mississippi Gaming Commission does not approve Natchez Enterprises within six months, the lease is terminated.