City cracking down on illegal parking at Natchez Under-the-Hill

Published 12:29 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat John Hooker and his brother Johnny “Boy” Hooker walk back to their car parked in one of the few legal parking spaces at Natchez Under-the-Hill.

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez has recently begun cracking down on illegal parking at Natchez Under-the-Hill, dredging up the longstanding question of what to do about the limited riverfront parking.

Natchez Police Chief Danny White said the police department started strictly enforcing no-parking zones Under-the-Hill about a month ago.

“We’ve been getting complaints, so the first couple of weeks, we put warnings on (illegally parked) cars,” White said. “For about two weeks now, we have been writing tickets.”

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — A car is parked illegally along a wooden fence built along Silver Street.

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White said the department will continue to write tickets as long as drivers are illegally parked on Silver Street, mainly, he said, because it is a safety issue.

“If an emergency vehicle comes down there, it’s basically blocked,” White said.

White said a parking ticket carries a $25 fine.

Mayor Butch Brown said he talked to White before the two officials were sworn about enforcing parking Under-the-Hill.

“It’s too narrow down there for people to park against that (wooden) fence,” Brown said.

The wooden fence was erected by Under-the-Hill property owner James Biglane after he tore down Wharf Master’s House restaurant. Brown said the city provided the no-parking signs for the fence instead of putting up signs on poles.

“It was already posted for no parking for many, many years,” Brown said.

The recent ticketing, Brown said, is not a money-making endeavor by the city, it is an attempt to keep Silver Street accessible for emergency vehicles and safe for patrons and merchants.

No parking is allowed down the hill until after the private parking lot for The Landing, which closed in June. That lot is chained off and not for public use.

White encouraged drivers to pay close attention to the no-parking signs Under-the-Hill so they can know where to park. White said there is no parking along the wooden fence.

The parking lot for Magnolia Grill is designated for restaurant customers and locks at 10 p.m.

Denton Biglane, whose family owns property Under-the-Hill said the electric gate at Magnolia Grill has been up for several years, but he said there have been problems in the past with people cutting the wires or otherwise breaking the gate.

“Parking has always been an issue down there ever since I can remember,” he said.

With a number of patrons Under-the-Hill, especially late at night and on weekends, and limited parking, Biglane said parking Under-the-Hill is a complicated problem.

Andre Farish, owner of Under-the-Hill Saloon, said limited parking Under-the-Hill has been a problem for him since the saloon opened in 1975.

Farish said the recent ticketing for illegal parking has spurred complaints from saloon patrons.

“(The complaints are) sometimes it’s enforced and sometimes it’s not, and when it is, it makes people angry,” Farish said.

Farish said he plans to set up a meeting with Brown to try to work out a solution.

Brown said a shuttle service may be something the city needs to look at to alleviate the illegal parking situation on Silver Street.

“A shuttle certainly wouldn’t hurt anything,” Brown said. “Back years ago we did run shuttles down there, but patrons really did not choose to use them.”

Brown said the city could look into having a shuttle carry patrons Under-the-Hill from other parking areas not as a for-profit service, he said, but just to cover costs.

“I would certainly like to see the shuttle service back and have it where — not to make it a profit — but make it such that we could pay for it,” he said.

Brown said he thought perhaps Under-the-Hill merchants could offer incentives for patrons for a free ride Under-the-Hill.

The Isle of Capri Casino currently offers a shuttle service for its patrons from the parking lot up to the hill from the casino.