Monday, May 12, 2008

Why Saving Church Street is Important to Natchez

The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s plan to widen Port Gibson’s Church Street and make it the permanent route of US 61 is disastrous for all Mississippians. It’s not just a tragedy for a handful of homeowners who live on Church Street and whose property will be destroyed along with their peace and quiet; it’s a tragedy for anyone who cares about the beautiful historic churches that give Church Street its name. Large trucks moving along this highway at any speed is damaging to these historic churches and homes and dangerous for the citizens who want to attend church.

Why should Port Gibson’s Church Street be of any concern to Natchezians?
If MDOT can do this to Church Street, they can do it to our streets. Destroying what makes Port Gibson unique and replacing it with what everyone else has, generic gas stations and fast food restaurants, is economic suicide. It’s true for Natchez as well. I hope that Natchez citizens will continue to reject short-sighted business plans by ignorant developers that threaten our historic buildings and neighborhoods. Currently, my friends in Port Gibson (black and white) want new businesses to build up around a bypass, like the ones in Natchez and Brookhaven and the countless historic towns throughout the South. They want to encourage tourism on Church Street and downtown. Fortunately, they have a new mayor who is pro-preservation. New citizens are now moving to Port Gibson because of affordable historic homes and buildings. This is similar to Natchez. Without the charm of our historic downtown and renovated buildings, Natchez loses its strongest asset as a unique place that brings tourism and, more importantly, new citizens with the money and time to help the city maintain its historic architecture. We should be proud of being a destination city that attracts new citizens who want to invest their assets in Natchez, pay taxes on the property they renovate, and become active in our community.
If you are as outraged as I am about the destruction of Church Street and concerned about the future of historic buildings in Mississippi, log on to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/ and go to Port Gibson’s Church Street site to sign the petition and state your opposition. If Natchez is assaulted by a plan this stupid, we would hope that the citizens of Port Gibson would support us. Therefore, let’s support them!
One more thing. My friends in Port Gibson tell me that Natchez’s former mayor and head of MDOT Butch Brown is fully supporting this disastrous decision and indeed pushing for it. Letters to the Clarion Ledger support this belief. I find this hard to believe since Butch Brown has the reputation of supporting preservation in Natchez. The Natchez Garden Club’s Party for Preservation was held at his historic home Mount Repose last month! Can anyone explain to me why Natchez’s native son is pushing for the destruction of Port Gibson’s Church Street ?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

The problem is that YOU are mis-informed by the naysayers. No one is widening the right of way on church street nor taking down any trees. Learn the facts.

Doc_Fungo said...

Maybe Butch on land along Church St.???

Anonymous said...

Re: 2:19 pm
Now I am curious as to the plans
MDOT has for Port Gibson and Church St. What are the facts?

Willie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Casey,

You're full o' bull

Anonymous said...

From the Petition Site: "MDOT's independent engineers and consultants have stated in their reports that such a route would harm the very elements that make Church Street a historical treasure. Even MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall has publicly stated he is opposed to using Church Street and acknowledged that the MDOT was skirting NEPA and Section 106 by claiming it will only use state funds. During the recent public presentation the MDOT informed residents that the Church Street route is its final decision. The Port Gibson Historical Trust along with the NAACP are pursuing all avenues, including legal, to save Church Street."

Anonymous said...

Casey, I'm proud of you for tolerating (publishing) 6:10s abusive comment. This is obviously someone who refuses to accept the truth.

This situation is real and it is factual!

Anonymous said...

Church St is now four lanes. The plan is to add a fifth, turn lane in the middle and take away the parking on each side of the street. Traffic would be much closer to the houses and churches and many trees would suffer or die.
Butch Brown and Dick Hall are on different sides of this issue, which may be one reason it has turned nasty.
As a former Port Gibson resident, I desperately hope that the bypass will be built and Church St will be saved.

Anonymous said...

Not sure which is worse, damaging Church St. or adding a bypass. As we all know, bypass' tend to kill small towns. People that travel that route may or may not care about Port Gibson but might stop to check it out or discover it for the first time. Bypass it entirely, and yes, that tiny little town will get smaller.

Anonymous said...

A bypass will certainly allow for more business, enterprise which means more jobs. There is no room for expansion on Church Street. Who wants to visit Church Street with 18-wheelers pounding the pavement outside those historic churches and homes?

Anonymous said...

I've been told Port Gibson will loose the only two groceries they have; so I guess those stores will go to the outskirts where the highway should have gone.

Anonymous said...

While I rarely agree with you Casey, on this matter I do.

However, I believe that it is more complicated than you make it out to be and some of the others that have commented have no clue what they are saying.

Church St currently serves as US HWY 61. I would doubt that traffic on Church St would increase by much if MDOTs plans were seen to completion. Also, bypass would most certainly draw a blow to Downtown Port Gibson and Church St. We would then have to take a detour to "discover" why it was too beautiful to burn.

That is what is sad about highways and bypasses... it leads to a hurried population that is too busy to take the scenic route. Think about those people that "pass through" Natchez... look at what they see. Would you think about Natchez the same way if all you knew was the 61 bypass? Afraid not.

My solution, leave it exactly the way it is (cut NO trees)... I can stand a two mile stretch of a narrow four-lane at 35mph. Especially if it is filled with the sights of Port Gibson.

But if they want to cut down those ancient oaks... MDOT needs to build a bypass... PLAIN and SIMPLE!!!

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that MDOT will probably not cut down many trees but. by adding the fifth lane, the traffic will all be much closer to the existing trees. This will cause many of them to die.

I agree that perhaps they should just leave things the way they are now but, apparently, that is not an option.

Anonymous said...

Dick Hall and Butch Brown should conduct their dueling on other ground. I would think the state of Mississippi has had enough of this kind of MDOT bullying at the expense of the taxpayer and detriment to not only our historic treasures but also the quality of life for private citizens and the environment.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious Buth Brown has his own agenda and will play the Bully at the taxpayers expense. For a long time many have suffered under his reign of terror. It's a shame Mississippi continues to tolerate his abuse.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see them leave the
small stretch of hwy the way it is.
Those few miles are pleasant and are not a problem for the area or street. Construction around those magnificent oaks will in time destroy them. I love that Miss has preserved our towns and hope we continue to do so.