Bean field parcels now city property

Published 12:03 am Thursday, July 16, 2015

NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said it takes a team to accomplish something great — and “team bean field” did just that Wednesday.

After two decades of lobbying, three parcels of land — a 30-acre lot next to Walmart, a 37-acre lot next to Natchez High School and a 21.4-acre lot across from U.S. 84 and U.S. 61 — officially became city property.

The 37-acre lot has been referred to as the bean field because the property was most recently used for soybean crops.

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Brown pointed out, though, that the portion of land near Walmart also once housed the Somerset Plantation.

“This is a historic day,” Brown said before receiving the deeds. “The legislative process is long and arduous, but we got it done.”

Before the city could receive the properties, an act of Congress had to be made — requiring state and federal compliance.

Since 1995, Brown said the city has discussed using the bean field as the site for a recreational facility.

In order to get the ball rolling on that project, however, the land had to be given back to the city.

From 2009 to 2012, the city engaged in a joint initiative with the Mississippi Transportation Commission to gain federal legislation to transfer the land back to the state.

Once the state received the properties, legislative representatives in Jackson worked to get the land back in city hands.

“Everyone from Washington to Jackson to Natchez worked together for the same goal to get this done,” said Gerald McWhorter, assistant Secretary of State for Mississippi. “I’m very proud to be a part of that.”

Now that the three parcels belong to Natchez, Brown said the city has two intentions for what to do with the properties.

The 37 acres next to Natchez High School and the 21.4 acres near the Trace will be used for recreational and educational uses, Brown said, while the 30 acres next to Walmart will be sold for profit.

Proceeds from the sale will be split three ways:

4One third will be used for the historic Natchez riverfront — namely for docking at Under the Hill, Brown said.

4One third will be used for infrastructure and other costs as contributions to capital projects by the National Parks Service in Adams County.

4One third will be used for infrastructure and other costs as contributions to capital projects by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Adams County.

Ultimately, Brown said he would like to see the bean field property be used for a city-county recreation complex, and the area next to Walmart attract retail, generating money for the city.

Tom King, southern district transportation commissioner for MDOT, said he was glad to finally see the city receive the deeds.

“It literally took an act of Congress for this to happen,” King said. “We went a long way to make sure something good and positive happened for Natchez.”

Brown said other key players in the “bean field victory” include former city attorney Walter Brown, former Natchez alderwoman Sue Stedman, former senator Bob Dearing, Natchez National Park Superintendent Kathleen Bond, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

“This victory is surrounded by the people of Natchez, who have all played such a great, important role,” Brown said.