Park service interested in land near river

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A lease between the city of Natchez and the Isle of Capri on some property at Fort Rosalie has expired and the National Park Service wants to acquire the land.

Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins told the Natchez Democrat that there was an understanding  that the NPS would obtain the Little Mexico property when the lease ran out.

The Little Mexico property is located just south of the casino. The city leased it to the Isle of Capri, then Lady Luck, in 1992. The property currently houses utilities and a small parking area for the casino.

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“I will remind them (the city) that there are challenges that the National Park Service faces (with Fort Rosalie), which have included the city going in different directions,” Jenkins said.

The NPS wants the land developed into a park with picnic tables and historical checkpoints on the walking trails by the Natchez tricentennial in 2016.

Jenkins said the NPS is not concentrating on the Civil War-era history at the fort.

“That’s what is unique about Rosalie,” she said in an earlier interview. “We’re not focusing on the cotton kingdom, we’re focusing on the earlier era when we had American Indians there.”

The Natchez Indians were already living on the Fort Rosalie site when the French established a trading post there in 1714. In 1726 the French developed the post into Fort Rosalie.

The French, in the 1726 massacre, lost the fort and regained it three years later.

After that the British and Spanish have each had control over the land.

Mayor Butch Brown said the board of aldermen has not had a discussion about the lease nor plans for the property. Brown said he has had general discussions with Jenkins about the property and possible plans.

“It’s up in the air,” he said. “The subject has been approached, but no conclusions have been made.”

Jenkins has said it is the hope of NPS that at some point in time, the park can protect the archaeological resources on the site and interpret them for the public.

She has said it is important that the site provides an undisturbed record of human occupancy that spans through the Americans, the English, the French and all the way throughout the Natchez Indians.

“We can learn a lot about those cultures and how they lived together through the archaeological records they left behind,” Jenkins said.