Trails wins economic award

Published 12:11 am Friday, February 10, 2012

Contributed — Several Natchez leaders were in Jackson last week to accept a Community Economic Development Award for the Natchez Trails Project at the Mississippi Economic Development Council’s 2012 Winter Conference. They are, from left, Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce member Dr. Ruth Nichols; Natchez Inc. Project Manager Chris Hinton; Chamber President Debbie Hudson; Mayor Jake Middleton; City Engineer David Gardner; Sen. Thad Cochran’s Northern District Director Mindy Maxwell; and Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ.

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez received an award and a check for $1,000 last week for its efforts to advance the city’s economic viability through the Natchez Trails Project.

Several city leaders were in Jackson last week to accept the city’s Community Economic Development Award from the Mississippi Economic Development Council at its 2012 winter conference.

Mayor Jake Middleton said the award signified the importance of the Natchez Trails Project as a piece of Natchez’s economic development puzzle.

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“People come here to see the trails, and when they come here, they eat, shop and spend money in Natchez,” he said. “The more people that hear about the trails, the better it is for the city.”

The Natchez Trails Project opened last June, and its trails wind through downtown and wrap along the river. More than $390,000 in private funding was raised for the project through the Natchez-Adams County Community Alliance.

Natchez City Engineer and Community Alliance Co-Chairman David Gardner said he was proud the project was honored on a statewide level.

“It just goes to show you what you can do when you have a group of dedicated people like the one that made the trails project happen,” he said.

Gardner said the Natchez Trails Project was modeled after cities with similar trails that had seen a significant increase in tourism and economic development because of their projects.

“We had a feeling it could do the same for Natchez,” Gardner said. “And I’m seeing a huge increase in people, especially downtown on the bluff. The trails have a lot to offer, and it really brings people to that area.”

Community Alliance Co-Chairman John Holyoak said the award was a building block to continue the growth of the Natchez Trails Project and increase economic growth in the city.

“To be an economically viable city, the city has to be multi-faceted,” Holyoak said. “To attract young people and different kinds of tourists, you have to supply active options like the trails.”

Holyoak said someday the project could tie into the Natchez Trace Parkway and bring people from the Trace straight into downtown.

Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson nominated the trails project for the award. She said she believes the project illustrates the great things that can happen in Natchez through the partnerships of several entities.

Hudson said the partnerships formed on the Natchez Trails Committee among numerous organizations, including the Natchez-Adams County Community Alliance, the City of Natchez, the National Park Service and several other organizations is what made the Natchez Trails Project successful and why the project won the award.

“It’s a community award,” Hudson said. “The word community means more than one group, and all the different organizations joining together is what makes a city successful.

“This day and age, that’s what you have to have to accompany any project,” Hudson said.

The Natchez Trails Project will now be submitted to the Southern Economic Development Council for a regional competition and will compete for a cash award.