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Park service makes big impact on Natchez

Melrose park ranger Barney Schoby Jr. gives a tour of Melrose to visitors, Dick Auclair, from left, Dianne Auclair, Diana Payne, Carlene Kaufmann, Jim Mack and Diane Mack Tuesday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Melrose park ranger Barney Schoby Jr. gives a tour of Melrose to visitors, Dick Auclair, from left, Dianne Auclair, Diana Payne, Carlene Kaufmann, Jim Mack and Diane Mack Tuesday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — A report by the National Park Service says Natchez National Historical Park put $12.072 million into the local economy last year.

The study, which was completed by economists with the U.S. Geological Survey on behalf of the park service, analyzed the spending of NPS visitors.

A total of 212,256 visitors made their way through the national park sites in Natchez in 2014.

The study says visitor spending supported 190 jobs in the area.

“Natchez National Historical Park is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world to Natchez,” Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said.

“We are delighted to share the story of this town and the experiences at our Natchez Visitor Center, Melrose, and the William Johnson House as ways to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 of federal taxes invested in the National Park Service – and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well.

“We work hard to hold up our end in terms of trying to attract visitors to Natchez.”

Gordon Cockwell, of South Africa, right, and Helen Pocock, of Australia, tour the grounds at Melrose. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Gordon Cockwell, of South Africa, right, and Helen Pocock, of Australia, tour the grounds at Melrose. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez Tourism Director Kevin Kirby said the national park is “part and parcel” of the story Natchez has to tell.

“It is integrated into the story of Natchez, a seamless part of the story,” he said. “We are excited about it strengthening the awareness overall for (the city’s tricentennial in 2016), when we can really showcase what the park system and the city brings to the world.”

In addition to plans to develop the historic Fort Rosalie site, the park service has plans in the works.

The park is also working to develop a more comprehensive sign plan for the city so people who come down the Natchez Trace Parkway can more easily find their way to important sites, Jenkins said.

“Often times, you have the folks who come down the Trace on motorcycles, and when they get to the end, they’re just at Liberty Road,” she said.

The NPS study found that more than 6.5 million people visited NPS sites in Mississippi.

According to the 2014 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging — 30.6 percent— followed by food and beverages at 20.3 percent.

Gas and oil spending followed at 11.9 percent, while admissions and fees amounted to 10.2 percent and souvenirs and other expenses accounted for 9.9 percent of expenses.