The House, which had defeated a bill allowing an exception for a retirement community development near Jackson, revived the bill Tuesday and sent it to the Senate with reverse repealer language that would kill the bill unless an agreement is negotiated with officials of the 444-mile national park running through three states.
Natchez Trace spokesperson Dale Wilkerson, Tupelo, said Wednesday afternoon parkway officials have been in conversation with Transportation Committee Chair Robert Johnson, D-Natchez. Wilkerson said the scenic integrity of the parkway, part of the National Park Service, is essential to its attractiveness and distinctiveness.
Wilkerson said parkway officials understand the importance of economic development to local communities, and he has offered to sit down for discussions with legislators. The original bill, which would have mandated a height exception, passed without dissent, but it was defeated in the House vote.
The Natchez Trace touches and includes natural history, pre-Columbian Native American history, early European possession of the Deep South and early American national history.
The challenge the Trace faces is its passage through developed urban areas, most notably in the Madison and Ridgeland communities that are suburbs of Jackson. Its brush with urbanization interestingly is more pronounced in Mississippi than in Alabama and Tennessee.
Narrow exceptions have infrequently been made in the scenery defining the Natchez Trace, and that restraint must be maintained.
The title National Parkway is rare, and only three besides the Trace carry the designation. They are:
• Blue Ridge Parkway, following the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
• George Washington Memorial Parkway, connecting the historic sites from Mount Vernon to the Great Falls of the Potomac.
• John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, 82 miles connecting Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
The situation involving the Jackson area can be worked out, but it requires extreme care and restraint.