Congress passes bill to give city ‘bean field’ property

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NATCHEZ — Congress cleared the way Tuesday for the future of recreation in Natchez — or at least for a possible location.

All that remains is President Obama’s signature to officially deed approximately 37 acres of National Park Service land, affectionately called the “bean field,” to the City of Natchez.

“This is a major thing, just to get the property released from the federal government,” Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said. “All the credit goes to (Sen.) Thad Cochran and his staff. They have shepherded this thing all the way through the process.

“They never gave up. Thad is a miracle man for Natchez.”

NPS acquired the land in the early 1990s as a possible termination point for the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Trace was ultimately terminated at its intersection with Liberty Road instead, leaving the bean field site unused.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., introduced the Natchez Trace Parkway Conveyance Act of 2013, with co-sponsor Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate.

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who represents the Third Congressional District, which includes Natchez, helped move the bill through the House, where it passed 419-1 Tuesday.

The bill authorizes the transfer of approximately 67 acres of surplus NPS property to the State of Mississippi and City of Natchez. The city would be given title to 37 acres adjacent to Natchez High School, known as the “bean field,” for recreational purposes.  The state would hold title to the remaining 30 acres.

Despite the anticipated gift of land, Brown said he doesn’t believe the city is in a position to develop the bean field as a recreation site anytime soon, mostly due to a lack of funding.

“It’s still not too late to develop it,” Brown said. “We haven’t lost our interest in recreation and our zeal for wellness.

“It’s an option for recreation. It’s all up in the air for how to use that option.”

Brown said the city hopes to convince the state to allow the sale of the land across the highway from the bean field site with the proceeds going to help pay for two currently unfunded projects.

“We want to use that property’s value to pave the road to Emerald Mound from the Natchez Trace,” Brown said, referring to a large Native American mound located in northern Adams County.

Any remaining money, Brown said, he’d like to go toward helping the National Park Service prepare the Fort Rosalie site on the Natchez bluff for public use.

“It’s really a wonderful, wonderful thing,” Brown said. “We are appreciative of all of the team of people who helped make this a reality. And at the end of the day, we may be able to fund these two needed projects at no cost to the federal government.”