Tourism officials create relief fund for flooding

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 30, 2011

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is lucky, for the most part, and local tourism officials and businesses want to lend a helping hand to those who won’t have the same fortune in weeks to come.

As the Mississippi River climbs toward a predicted record-breaking crest of 60 feet, it’s inevitable that lives and property will be affected in some way.

So the Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is working with local hotels and bed and breakfasts to create a relief fund of sorts to be donated to those impacted by the river’s waters.

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City Tourism Director Connie Taunton said the group wanted to do something to help, since the majority of the City of Natchez will safely and dryly weather the flood from high atop a 200-foot bluff.

“It is something we need to step up to the plate and do,” Taunton said.

Eleven area hotels and Bed and Breakfasts joined the effort early this week, agreeing to donate between $1 to $5 per room booked in May to the fund.

Taunton hopes to add more participants soon. She also expects the CVB to contribute financially as well.

Taunton plans to map out the details with participating businesses early next week. Current discussions include donating money to either sister cities who may be more affected by flooding than Natchez or to donate it to hourly employees of the Isle of the Capri Casino or other Under-the-Hill businesses who could be laid off for a week or more if the river reaches onto Silver Street.

At the same time, tourism officials are working to spread the word that the majority of Natchez will not flood and is still open for tourists.

“We’ve been having calls today even, about the Blues Fest, asking if it was canceled (due to flooding,)” Taunton said.

The only tourist-related sites in the City of Natchez at risk of closing due to flooding are the Isle of Capri Casino, one restaurant and one bar.

All other attractions, bars and restaurants will stay open, Taunton said. Tourists are encouraged to visit the area, and if they stay at a participating hotel or B&B, a portion of their room fee will be donated to the relief fund.

As of Friday afternoon participating establishments were: Bisland House, Magnolia Cottage, LaJardin, White Turpin, D’Evereaux Shields Townhouse, Dunleith, Twin Oaks, Grand Hotel, Wensel House, Brandon Hall and Linden.

Taunton also asked that area residents spread the word to friends, family and through their connections that Natchez is still open for business and will not close for flooding.