Forks of the Road could soon be part of Natchez National Historical Park

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

NATCHEZ — The Forks of the Road site is one step closer to becoming part of the Natchez National Historical Park.

In the $1 trillion spending bill Congress will likely vote on today, language is included that would allow the National Park Service to accept land donations and purchase land at the Forks of the Road — once the second-largest slave market in the country.

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If the bill becomes law, the park service could initiate the process of acquiring land owned by the City of Natchez, likely through donation, and purchasing privately owned land at the site.

The park service completed a boundary adjustment study that looked at adding the Forks of the Road site to the park in 2010.

“So we’ve been waiting for Congress to do something since then,” Natchez park Superintendent Kathleen Bond said.

The Forks of the Road site has sat largely undeveloped as an interpretive site for years and has been supported mainly by the volunteer preservation efforts of the Friends of the Forks of the Road.

If the bill is signed into law, the park service’s lands office in Atlanta would likely begin a conversation with the City of Natchez and interested private landowners to acquire the property.

If added to the park, the Forks of the Road site would be developed for interpretation and be managed along with the park’s other sites in Natchez.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he thinks the park service would be the best steward of the Forks site.

“I think (the park service) would be the perfect owner for that particular site,” Grennell said. “The Forks of the Road goes beyond the parameters of Natchez. There are African descendants across the U.S. whose forefathers were there at that site. Forks of the Road is bigger than the people here in Natchez. People all across the country have been impacted by it.”

The Forks of the Road site is the only place in Natchez that has received international recognition by the United Nations because of its role in the international slave trade.

Bond said news the park service could finally be enabled to acquire the Forks of the Road is “probably one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in my almost 24 years here.”

“It’s so important for the National Park Service to tell this story, and it’s so important for Natchez to tell this story,” Bond said. “If this will help bring additional resources and visibility, that’s what is really important for this site.”

Friends of the Forks of the Road Coordinator Ser Seshsh ab Heter-CM Boxley said he won’t get excited about the prospect of the park service managing the Forks site until it actually happens.

Boxley said former mayor and state representative Phillip West played an important role in the movement to put the Forks in the hands of the park service. Bond said the ongoing support of Sen. Thad Cochran has also been crucial to getting to this point.

“The long-haul effort to enable to Natchez National Historical Park to receive land at the Forks and/or purchase land, that struggle would be over,” Boxley said. “But it’s not over until it’s over.”

Congress is expected to vote on the bill today or sometime this week. If it passes, the bill would then go to the president for his signature.