So many blessings for Natchez
Published 6:30 am Sunday, October 2, 2022
Thursday morning, as a beautiful fall day dawned and an excited group of Natchezians greeted the beautiful new river vessel Viking Mississippi, now set to bring thousands more visitors to our city each year, I had to pause for a moment to give thanks. God truly has been blessing Natchez, and the good news has been hard to keep up with.
Just this week Natchez Adams School District’s rating shot up from a D to a B. Our public elementary school, McLaurin Elementary achieved an A rating. And we are approaching the completion of the state’s newest and most state-of-art high school, Natchez High School, along with a fully renovated Natchez Middle School right across from it. On top of this, NECA, Natchez Early College Academy, one of only four such programs in the state, is now rated in the very top tier of Mississippi high schools, with 200 students enrolled in a program to simultaneously earn their high school diplomas and college associate degrees – at no cost to their parents!
Also this week, work progressed in the installation of new playground equipment at all six of the city’s public parks. In addition, bathroom renovations at North Natchez and Concord parks are now complete, and a complete renovation of the Youth Center at North Natchez Park is now underway. Work will soon begin on our baseball fields at Duncan Park, and new tennis courts are soon to be added. We also are making progress in the design phase of the restoration of the Duncan Park Golf Clubhouse, scheduled to commence in 2023.
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Tuesday, updates were provided at our BOA meeting regarding the development of the historic Eola Hotel, gearing up for a 2023 renovation, and the city also announced plans to complete exterior renovation of the historic Illinois Central Depot located on our Bluff, in addition to adding public restrooms, a visitor information center, and a visitor theater experience. We also announced that the private developers who were hoping to develop a restaurant there will now turn their attention to a larger and better restaurant development on private property they own adjacent to the Depot where historic constraints are not at play and a better view of the river can be enjoyed.
On top of all of this, the city’s finances continue to show vast improvement over recent years, with sales tax collections continuing to set records and new development continuing to baffle event the pundits – seems like we have a ribbon cutting every other day lately! And October is now here and along with it Fall Pilgrimage and exciting concerts coming to town: Patti LaBelle, CeeLo Green and Kool and the Gang next weekend at the first-ever “Blues and Soul Superbowl,” Chapel Heart and the Driveby Truckers at our city’s 37th Balloon Festival the weekend after, and Deanna Carter and our own Eleanor Swede at Longwood Afternoon the last weekend of this month! A lot to take in – our restaurants, hotels and B&B’s are going to be hopping busy!
Time and space don’t allow for much of the other good news we have to share. There is so much of it. Suffice it to say, we are truly blessed. Yes, there are some I realize who find it hard to believe that all of these great things are happening, but I for one am excited to celebrate the positive. Nothing comes easy, and yes we still have challenges to overcome as we continue moving forward. But the Natchez Renewal is happening, and we couldn’t be happier. Because Natchez Deserves More.
Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.