Indulge my non-fantasy for Natchez

Published 12:39 am Sunday, September 9, 2018

Close your eyes for a minute and put on your Mickey Mouse ears, if you have a pair, and join me in a little trip down imagination lane.

Whether you have been there or seen it on television, imagine yourself on the streets of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The streets are clean, the music plays, workers move quickly to keep the surroundings tidy and the guests happy and festive.

What if that Disney shine was put on our downtown?

I can see it now.

The place that locals and tourists alike enjoy would be polished each morning for a new day of visitors.

Walt Disney created scenic replica streetscapes in his theme parks.  We have the real thing, Main Street USA, right here in Natchez.

The buildings are built.

The view is fantastic.

Natchez has long been dubbed as the perfect backdrop for a Hollywood movie. Natchez has good bones.

And people from all over the world come here to see it all.

If we just sprinkled a little Disney magic around, we might provide those visitors with an even greater experience, one about which they would tell everyone.

The best part is all of us locals would get to enjoy it as well.

What would downtown look like if our city leaders made a plan to give visitors a Disney-like experience? 

First, every sidewalk would be made smooth, wheelchair and stroller friendly. Cracks or bumps would be quickly noticed and repaired.

Light poles, trashcans and recycling receptacles would be cleaned and in good condition. 

Streets and parking positions would be well marked. Directional signs would be clear and abundant.

Finding one’s way would be as easy and simple as following the signs.

Plants would be well tended, tree wells clean and storefronts — even unoccupied — made attractive to passersby.

Pleasant background music would emanate from each corner.

In Disney the smell of chocolate chip cookies is piped into the air. How cool would it be if Natchez’s downtown had the aroma of Southern pralines or even lavender wafting through the air?

Early each morning before all but the most diehard walkers and runners are stirring, the scrubbing would begin.

The street sweeper, blowers and street vacuums would scrub the core grid of the downtown streets before sun up.

A crew of workers would walk the designated area including the bluff and remove any bits of trash left over from the day before.

The same small crew would likely be on patrol throughout the day. If a bench needs painting it would get painted. If a weed needed pulling it would get pulled.

It is easy to imagine how just a few changes could make the user experience go from average to exceptional.

The sights and smells would impress tourists, and civic pride would reach new levels.

Disney is known as the best but others give us good examples of cleaning and resetting a destination location daily.

It happens all the time. Promoters hold concerts in a stadium one night and a football game the next.

Downtown is a venue for all of us and our visitors.

If you want our most important venue to shine, ask our city leaders to make a very simple plan to become more Disney-like. It can be done with hard work and imagination, organization and implementation and would cost very little.

The truth is: this isn’t the stuff of fantasy; it’s not only possible; it’s within our grasp.

Good things are ahead with implementation of downtown redevelopment.  Setting the stage with this plan to be at our best every day will magnify and multiply the positive outcome from that work. 

We can make it happen, if we simply say, we are going to do it, if we use a little Disney-like vision and self-discpline to take something great and make it better.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.