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Forks of Road on funding list

NATCHEZ — The U.S. Department of Interior included $400,000 for Forks of the Road in a priority list of recommended fiscal year 2021 allocations from the federal Land Water Conservation Fund, officials said.

The U.S. Congress’ LWCF could supply the National Park Service with funding needed to purchase privately and commercially-owned parcels within the 18-acre piece of land that is Forks of the Road, said Kathleen Bond, Superintendent of Natchez National Historical Park.

From 1833 until 1863, Forks of the Road was one of the nation’s largest slave trade markets. Today there is little more than a sign and a small monument made of concrete and shackles acknowledging its existence at the intersection of Liberty and Washington roads.

Bond said the City of Natchez is in the process of donating nine city-owned land parcels to NPS to further develop and enhance the area, which could be finalized in early January.

Negotiations with willing sellers of some 12 or 15 land parcels in the area are also ongoing, Bond said, adding it is unclear how much money will be needed.

“This is huge,” Bond said of the Forks of the Road being considered for funds. “I think it is a huge statement of what the priorities are for the National Park Service and a huge statement of what the priorities are for the country.”

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the inclusion of Forks of the Road in funding proposals that were submitted to Congress was a result of a collaborative effort between the City of Natchez and Adams County Board of Supervisors and city and county employed lobbyists with the Watkins & Eager firm.

The Forks of the Road funding initiative also received support from “all of Mississippi’s delegation,” Gibson said.

“We couldn’t be more excited,” Gibson said of the Forks of the Road initiative during a Tuesday meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen. “Let us pray that it is funded. This is a tremendous success. Just getting it on the list is testament enough of the work that has been done over the past several weeks.”

The city and county’s support of the project also speaks to how the officials “see the need to understand our past as a vital part of moving forward,” Bond said.

“Of course, Black history is American history but more than that this is human history,” Bond said. “We all understand the humanity of the different experiences people have had in this country. I think the healthiest thing is for us to be able to tell the truth and then work together.”

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