Jefferson Street location proposed site for walking park

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This site on Jefferson Street once housed College Cleaners. It is located behind the Ackel Building and is the location of a proposed walking park. Photo by Payne Williams

By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

Perception is reality.

Parish President Rick Nowlin made that statement at the Thursday meeting of the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission (NHDDC). How people, the City and the parish are perceived is indeed the reality to those visiting, living or working here. NHDDC members work tirelessly within their individual agencies and as a unified group to ensure the perception, and therefore the reality of Natchitoches is positive

This billboard featuring the new Natchitoches logo and a bounty of tulips that now grace downtown is located on I-49 to welcome travelers. Photo by Rebecca Blankenbaker

This is especially true as they ready their budget for the upcoming fiscal year. They are discussing the best way to budget their funds. “We have to be good stewards of the money,” said Chairman Van Erikson. One line item the NHDDC is considering funding, or partially funding, is free wifi downtown. They received basic figures last month to get a better idea of the overall cost. When looking at the festivals, events, landscaping/horticultural services, parks and more the NHDDC contributes to, they see the need to receive analytics from each.

“We (the NHDDC) exist to help people bring good things to the historic district,” member David Stamey said. “The wifi project would impact the overall budget.” The budget committee will look over the projects to determine allocation of funds. The budget will be presented in May, voted on in June and implemented in July.

Staying in line with the budget, members voted to amend the current budget to reallocate funds set aside for the air show. Since there will not be an air show this year, those funds can be used for other projects. Members voted to fund a park project on Jefferson Street, where College Cleaners once stood. The park will feature a walking trail, parking space and minimal landscaping. The space will also feature an interactive plaque detailing the significance of the Jefferson Highway, for which Jefferson Street is named. “It would be a practical thing for the area and promote a healthy lifestyle, walking,” said member Payne Williams. “It will provide access to the Fort and overflow parking as needed.” The project could be completed as early as late April.

Above is a rendering of the proposed park on Jefferson Street.

Main Street Director Jill Leo commented on the fireworks over the riverbank in conjunction with conventions such as the ones Thursday, March 21. She said the fireworks are funded by those organizations, not the City. In fact, the City charges a fee to cover law enforcement and security expenses. In other business, Leo said the Cane River Queen riverboat should arrive within the next week or so. It is booked for the Girls Weekend event April 6. The City is also participating in the Cleanest City contest with a constituency in town last Thursday. “The website has a place for groups to volunteer to pick up trash,” she said. “We want to get this project rolling again.”

Chamber President Laura Lyles said the upcoming Crave cooking event April 4 from 5-8 p.m. will have a tailgate theme, gourmet hot dog contest, cornhole tournament and $10 bottomless margaritas.

Rebecca Blankenbaker updated information on the widget for the Natchitoches.com website. “It is an intense project. We gather information from six partners and nine feeds,” she said. Some hiccups have been encountered, such as one site naming an event one thing and another calling is something similar. Blankenbaker said some are a simple matter of consistency. The widget should be launched in May locally.