Visitor center donation to National Park Service moves forward
NATCHEZ — The acquisition of the Natchez Visitor Reception Center by the National Parks Service is “full speed ahead,” meaning federal funding is in store for the center.
The Natchez National Historical Park received word from the National Park Service that funding is now in place to move forward with the acquisition, said Kathleen Bond, Natchez National Historical Park superintendent.
“It’s the 21st century; the building is 20 years old,” Bond said. “It’s time for us to re-envision what that (center) can be, what that visitor experience needs to be as people come into town.”
The Natchez National Historical Park will receive an annual base operating increase of $650,000 to operate the visitor center, set for donation to the park service by the City of Natchez.
This donation will cause a shift away from a “strongly tourism-marketing-focused city facility” to a much heavier presence by the NPS to enhance visitor services, NPS officials said in a statement. Acquisition will move forward immediately in conjunction with Natchez officials.
Bond’s announcement Tuesday at the Natchez Board of Aldermen’s regular meeting came much to the delight of city leaders, who applauded after Bond announced the donation process would move forward.
“That’s great news, Kathleen,” Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said.
In terms of funding, the well dried up for the visitor’s center in the past two years after previously receiving a steady steam of funds from the state in prior years. Transfer of ownership to the National Park Service from the city had been a primary goal of officials entering this year.
The NPS regional office has representatives scheduled to visit Natchez in June and July to perform an operations analysis and make staffing recommendations for the visitor center when it becomes federal property.Bond said she would keep the board of aldermen up to date with further developments.