Visitors Center closed until sometime in 2024; Leader says when it reopens it will be ‘destination’
Published 2:11 pm Friday, October 6, 2023
NATCHEZ — Work on renovation of the Natchez National Park Service Visitors Center at 640 S. Canal St. in Natchez will not be completed until at least the summer of 2024, but Kathleen Bonds, the park service superintendent in Natchez, said the end result would be worth the wait.
In the meantime, visitors to Natchez will be directed to the Visit Natchez office, located at 500 Main St. for information, visitor guides, maps and brochures, said Devin Heath, executive director of Visit Natchez.
“Now that the Canal Street center has closed, we’ve focused on extending our services. And we are beginning preparations for opening the Visitor Information Center at the Depot, which will expand our offerings and services in a fantastic location,” Heath said.
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Signage is going up next week at the Canal Street location directing visitors to the Main Street location.
“We look forward to expanding our partnership with the city as we plan and develop the new Visitor Information Center at the Depot. Our goal is to create a unique experience for visitors and residents alike,” Heath said.
Bond said when it reopens, the Natchez National Park Service Visitors Center will be a destination in itself.
“Right now, we are in what is an 18-month, $4.5 million replacement of the HVAC in the building,” Bond said. The project on the 25,000 square foot facility began in February. While the Visitors Center on Canal is closed, the Natchez National Park Service has reopened the first floor of the William Johnson House at 210 State St.
“The bookstore people and National Park staff are working out of the William Johnson House for now,” which is open seven days a week, Bond said.
“We started in the office wing of the Canal Street location. The HVAC is divided into two systems. While I am hearing from the company that they may be ahead of schedule, we have another project that we already have funding for that we will continue on with when the HVAC project is done. We see no reason to open for a couple of months only to close again,” she said.
The additional project will correct some safety issues at the building and redesign the lobby area and update restrooms, as well as making areas of the building more accessible. That project will cost roughly $1.3 million, Bond said.
“We hope to get some of the design work done on the lobby while the air conditioning project is ongoing. That’s our current plan,” she said. “I know every time the mayor brings it up, he asks everyone to be patient. It’s going to be a new and improved Visitors Center. In the meantime, we are working on new exhibits and films. Our real goal is to make that a National Park Service Visitors Center that will be a destination in itself. We will shoulder lots of the burden of telling the entire Natchez story from Rosalie to Forks of the Road and beyond.”