Natchez Trace marks 75th anniversary

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – While celebrating and remembering the first 75 years of the Natchez Trace Parkway, elected officials talked about what the next 75 years will bring.
Sen. Roger Wicker remembered a time when the road seemed impossible.
“In 1976 I went into the United States Air Force and I bought my father-in-law’s Buick and drove it to North Carolina and on that Buick there was a bumper sticker that said, ‘Finish the Trace.’ I was filling up my car at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and this fella came up to me and said, ‘You know they are never going to finish that Natchez Trace.’”
Wicker said the roadway and all its splendor now seems inevitable but it wasn’t always that way.
“It took the effort of everyone involved and it’s going to take the efforts of people within the sound of my voice to keep it going.”
Congressman Alan Nunnelee, who experienced the Natchez Trace as a young boy with his grandfather, said the future of the Natchez Trace is the new task.
One challenge mentioned is accommodating vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Natchez Trace Parkway Association President Bryant Boswell and Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said a recreational trail for bicyclists would be useful.
“I think we’re at a turning point,” Boswell said. “The use of this parkway has changed drastically since the 1950s. It’s a new day and a day to bring in the programming the parkway was paved to do. We’re working to improve the safety of the cyclists and … I’m all for a recreational trail from Nashville to Natchez. Sen. (Thad) Cochran, thanks for the one in Ridgeland, because it is well used.”
Past President of the Natchez Trace Parkway Association Dot Ward said we have come a long way in finishing the Trace but there is more to do.
“We have a challenge ahead in maintaining the parkway through the affects of sequestration,” she said. “We also need funding for the many projects that tell the story of the Natchez Trace, like the living history events held this month. We’ll soon see the Chickasaw Interpretive Center built and learn more their influence on the Natchez Trace.”
Thad Cochran promised to support the roadway’s construction in his 1972 campaign, and said this anniversary is a dream come true.
jb.clark@journalinc.com