City’s parks could help area health

Published 12:31 am Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ten years ago this month, I returned to Natchez — my third arrival in my adopted hometown.

Much has changed in that 10-year span, both personally and in Natchez.

Among my favorite additions to Natchez is the renovation work on the bluff trails and their expansion through the Natchez Trails project.

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The project took advantage of the amazing views Natchez offers of America’s mightiest river.

The Natchez Trails project was spearheaded by the Community Alliance and funded through donations from locals as well as hefty grant funding from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Prior to the project, visitors to the bluff had to see the beauty of the river through a rundown chain-link fence.

A widened sidewalk and a decorative fence have transformed the area. Today the Natchez Trails draw residents and tourists alike, from all walks of life.

A brief stroll on the trails is likely to find visitors from all over the world, neighbors of yours, young and old, black and white and every other thread imaginable from Natchez’s diverse quilt of humanity.

That strip of concrete has bridged gaps of age, race and economics more than anything I’ve seen in my nearly quarter of a century of exposure to Natchez.

The majestic Bridge of Sighs was recreated last year to provide an even more impressive view of the river.

Expansions to the Trails Project, linking the existing trails to the new St. Catherine Street trail are under way. I can only imagine how that may weave Natchez together even more.

Over the past few years, I’ve walked at least 100 miles or so on the bluff. When my wife Julie was pregnant, we often headed out for a long walk on the trails at night before we left work.

Since then, our daughter Anna’s stroller has made dozens of trips, and we’ve walked the route a bunch of times with the whole family — including two dogs in tow.

In the year ahead, the beauty of the bluffs will be explored further as the National Park Service prepares to allow public access to the Fort Rosalie site, the true epicenter of early Natchez settlement.

Hopefully, the city and its residents will continue to invest time and money into the Natchez Trails project and continue to make it an attractive and alluring destination to bring people to Natchez.

My hope is that we can, as a community, find more ways to use the wonderfully public space atop the bluff to encourage community involvement and even improved health.

Over the holidays, Christmas lights and activities excited Anna, so driving around to see the lights became a regular on her list of evening must-dos.

On several trips when the skies were dry, we parked on the bluff and got out and walked to see some of the lighted, motorized Christmas displays up close.

Somehow getting out and walking around them made the experience better than merely driving past. I hope the city will consider how they might make the Natchez bluff truly a Christmas headquarters next year. Imagine making the trail transformed for a few weeks in Natchez’s own Winter Wonderland, inviting all for a walk.

It wouldn’t take much in the way of lights to spruce up the walk, and by moving the displays so that viewers had to walk along the riverfront to see them, well it would force more people out of their cars and onto that magical piece of concrete.

Who knows what good may come out of more people seeing the tranquility of the river while enjoying the Christmas spirit.


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