Hannah Richardson | Lifestyle Editor
Good news continues to come from the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission (NHDDC) on upcoming/ongoing projects and events. After a bleak and eventless year due to the pandemic, expect to see a lot more happening in the parish for the next several months. The commission met Thursday, June 17 in the City Council Chambers on Second Street.
The commission approved the 2021-22 slate of officers. Jill Leo will serve as chair, Rebecca Blankenbaker will be vice-chair and Payne Williams will be treasurer. Members gave thankful remarks to Vanner Erikson, who has served as chair for the past four years.
Sharon Gahagan brought up plans for the storm-damaged trees in the historic district. “There is severe damage to nearly 100% of the trees,” said Gahagan. She said every tree is numbered, catalogued and still being closely monitored. They are working to contact organizations in forestry for grant possibilities. “The trees are an environmental plus for all of us… if we didn’t have those oak trees on the river, what would it look like? It enhances our quality of life and the community,” said Gahagan. She said within the next two months, decisions would have to be made as far as trimming for safety reasons
Erikson said Northwestern State University has been “rockin’ and rollin’” when it comes to continuing their Freshman Connection events. They are well aligned with last year’s numbers despite the pandemic and are gearing up for the fall semester. The university will also be welcoming the interim president, Marcus Jones, July 1. The public is invited to a retirement reception for Dr. Chris Maggio Wednesday, June 23 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Orville Hanchey Gallery on campus.
Blankenbaker gave a joint report for the National Park Service (NPS) and the Cane River National Heritage Area (CRNHA). The NPS released their economic impact numbers for 2020. Cane River Creole National Historical Park (CRCNHP) saw 17,400 visitors spending an estimated $1 million at the local gateway regions. These expenditures supported a total of 15 jobs, $398,000 in labor income, $727,000 in value added and $1.3 million in economic output in local gateways surrounding the park. Due to COVID-19, these numbers are approximately 50% less than previous years.
The CRCNHP and CRNHA have also been partnering on a series of community conversation events regarding the Train Depot project. The next event will be Aug. 21 to solicit opinions and memories of the depot from the public. Photography and stories are needed. The Fall Festival will make a return Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Oakland Plantation. It is free to attend and there will be music, live animals and family friendly activities.
Grand Ecore Visitor Center is open Wednesday-Saturday from noon-4:30 p.m. Summer Walking Tours downtown are Wednesday-Saturday at 10 a.m. The GoNatchitoches application had 270 new downloads in May. Signs promoting the app will be placed in Parc Natchitoches and throughout the city.
Executive Director of the Tourism Commission Arlene Gould mentioned the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction events next week, along with the Rockin’ River Fest on the downtown riverbank Friday, June 25.
Leo mentioned the Lady Bass Anglers that are in town for their tournament. They were welcomed officially Wednesday and launched their tournament early Thursday morning. Destination Downtown Natchitoches events will kick off July 3 with live music from Jaryd Lane. Festivities will continue every weekend in July. For the fall event season, Zydeco Festival will return Sept. 4, Meat Pie Festival is Sept 18, Classic Car Show is Oct. 2, TappedTober is Oct. 9 and NSU will bring back Boogie on the Bricks Oct. 23 in conjunction with homecoming.
A new event tentatively set for the second Saturday in August through November is still in the works.
Parish President John Richmond gave a report, stating they are starting back town hall meetings throughout the parish. Details will be posted on the Parish of Natchitoches Facebook page. Rehab on Fish Hatchery Road is coming along well. Even with all the rain lately, the road hasn’t flooded as badly as it has in the past.
Hannah Wenninger-Perot with the City of Natchitoches shared that thanks to a partnership with the CRNHA, painting of the Church Street Bridge and Keyser Avenue Bridge has been accomplished recently. The island curb on Lafayette and Front Street has also been completed, and crepe myrtles will be added to beautify the area.
The next public hearing for the Natchitoches Safe Streets Revitalization Project is Wednesday, June 23 at 5 p.m. at the Ben Johnson Auditorium. If you have noticed the raised platform, or parklet, in front of City Hall lately, that area will soon be used for “open meeting Fridays” with Mayor Ronnie Williams. Citizens can come chat Fridays starting in July from 9-11 a.m.