City eyes bean field ownership

Published 2:20 pm Thursday, September 11, 2014

NATCHEZ — Natchez’s legislative delegation will be called upon in the next session to help the city finally obtain the “bean field” property.

Natchez attorney Walter Brown is working to prepare legislation on behalf of the City of Natchez asking the Mississippi Legislature to donate the property to the city.

Land that was originally set aside for the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway was given back to the State of Mississippi from the federal government in early August.

The City of Natchez currently has a 25-year lease on 37 of the 67 acres conveyed — the bean field, next to Natchez High School — and has eyed the property since 1999 for possible recreational use.

Brown, who assisted with the deed transaction last month, said the next step in the process involves legislation for two portions of the land.

Another portion of land that was originally set aside for the terminus, across the highway and next to Walmart, would be advertised and sold through the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.

“What the legislation will state is for the Secretary of State to advertise for sale of the Walmart section, but to also grant and donate to the City of Natchez the bean field property,” Brown said. “We’ll prepare a bill for that purpose, and that will be introduced in the upcoming 2015 legislative session.”

The Mississippi State Highway Commission — now the Mississippi Department of Transportation — acquired the land when plans were to end the Trace there.

In the 1990s, the highway commission and the National Park Service determined the best entrance for the Trace would be more east, at Liberty Road. The 67 acres near NHS became surplus property.

The 30-acre tract near Walmart, in addition to the bean field, is located across U.S. 61 and 84, and is largely wooded.

The fate of a house currently used by the local VFW post on that portion of the land has not yet been determined, Brown said.

The transfer of property last month included a covenant that any development of the land will be of a use compatible with that of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Brown said the bean field property also contains some archeological importance and thus has certain regulations for construction, such as a limit on how high lights for a ball field can be.

“None of that would be disturbed for recreation,” Brown said. “There are plenty of recreational activities that it can be used for without needed 90 feet lights, for example.”

Even though the property originally acquired for the Trace terminus was larger than 67 acres, Brown said the U.S. government would continue to hold some of it in order to maintain a tree line near the Trace.

A plan to use the bean field property for recreation purposes was first introduced in the late 1990s, though discussion in recent months have focused on developing existing recreation programs in Adams County.