Tricentennial could set good course

Published 12:01 am Sunday, October 11, 2015

Has the City of Natchez lost its swagger and its direction?

Natchez was once a highly progressive city, a preeminent municipality in the state of Mississippi. Now it appears some days as if its main goal is merely to eek by.

A big challenge of late seems to be a lack of cash or at least a lack of understanding what cash the city has and where it’s located.

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Hopefully, the challenges over simply “not knowing” about city funds will go away in the year ahead as the city migrates from an elected city clerk to an appointed, and theoretically more skilled position.

With the money woes hopefully behind us soon, or at least in better focus, what’s next for Natchez?

The city is gearing up for the Natchez Tricentennial, or 300th birthday, celebration next year.

The tricentennial should position Natchez to have lots of eyeballs on it, assuming the high-dollar branding and marketing plans the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau started ultimately wind up being successful.

If Natchez makes its way through 2016 and all we’ve accomplished is a good celebration of our history and a great welcome to thousands of extra visitors, we’ll be missing out.

The 300th celebration could be a key turning point in our city’s history, a mark on the calendar where future generations point and say, “That’s when the revival started.”

Tomorrow, a group of volunteers is scheduled to make a presentation to the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen. The group, FOR (Friends of Our Riverfront) Natchez, aims to help frame up a conversation about redeveloping the riverfront and bluff area smartly.

Their initial plans — which are said to cost the city nothing — should be discussed in the meeting beginning at 4 p.m. at the conference room at Natchez City Hall.

The key to their plans is involvement and buy-in from all sorts of folks.

On the surface, their focus makes a heck of a lot of sense.

Natchez needs a plan for where it’s going, development wise. Simply leaving the development up to the whims of individual developers is almost certain to leave the bluff in a hodge-podge state.

Many Natchez leaders have talked about so-called “legacy” projects related to the Natchez Tricentennial.

I cannot think of a better legacy project than to have a focused plan for future development of the city’s most precious asset — the majestic views of the mighty Mississippi River.

Spanish governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos wisely blocked out the bluff top as public space in the late 1700s. At the time, certainly someone in the Natchez District was eyeing the gorgeous view for a new home development.

Fortunately for us, Gayoso’s intelligence and vision preserved the beauty of the public space for future generations.

Like Gayoso, modern Natchezians have a responsibility to both the present and the future generations.

Could the beauty of the bluff be preserved and enhanced while areas along Broadway and Canal are more appropriately developed?

Hopefully, that’s the case, but most important is to build out something that can be a shared, common vision for what the city aims to be in 5, 10 or even the next 300 years.

Lord knows Natchez has a pile of diversity of opinion and direction, but here’s hoping we can rally together long enough to write the first chapter of the city’s next 300 years together.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or