STATEMENT OF DENIS P. GALVIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, UNITED STATES SENATE, CONCERNING S. 2020, TO ADJUST THE BOUNDARY OF THE NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY

MAY 11, 2000


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 2020, to adjust the boundary of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, and for other purposes.

The Department supports S. 2020. This legislation would set the stage for completing the southern terminus of Natchez Trace Parkway, which would allow visitors direct access into the historic city of Natchez by way of an historic transportation route. The legislation would provide the authority necessary to build a direct access road from the parkway to the Emerald Mound site.

The historical Natchez Trace extended from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. The trace was the main overland link between the Southwest Territory on the lower Mississippi River and the United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1938, Congress established the 445-mile Natchez Trace Parkway as a unit of the National Park System. Currently, the southern end of the parkway is eight miles outside of the city of Natchez at U.S. Highway 61. The southern terminus, and another segment in the vicinity of Jackson, Mississippi, are the only two parkway segments that still need to be completed.

A southern extension of the parkway has been partially constructed from U.S. Highway 61 to U.S. Highway 84/98, but this four-mile segment will not open to traffic until a terminus alternative has been selected and fully constructed. Planning for the southern terminus has been going on for several decades, but several different options considered over the years were determined to be infeasible. During the 1990’s, the possibilities were narrowed to three alternatives that were analyzed in a 1998 Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the National Park Service. The options included a "no action" alternative, the Liberty Road alternative, and the Sergeant Prentiss Drive alternative. After analyzing the total range of the impacts of these alternatives, the National Park Service concluded that the Liberty Road alternative would be the best choice.

S. 2020 reflects the National Park Service’s preference for locating the southern terminus at Liberty Road. The bill would expand the boundary of the parkway by approximately 150 acres from the vicinity of St. Catherine Creek to Liberty Road. Land acquisition authority provided by the bill would enable the National Park Service to acquire the property necessary for the construction of an interchange and about four miles of parkway, as called for in the Liberty Road alternative.

S. 2020 would also expand the boundary of the parkway by about 80 acres in the Emerald Mound area, a National Park Service site along the parkway about 10 miles northeast of Natchez. Emerald Mound, which was constructed and used during the Mississippian period (approximately 1300 to 1600 A.D.), is the third largest Indian mound of any type and the second largest ceremonial mound in the United States.

Access to Emerald Mound is in serious need of improvement. Visitors reach the mound by exiting the parkway motor road at milepost 10.3 and traveling about one mile to the parking area on a narrow winding county road with hazardous intersections. The Emerald Mound property lines are not contiguous with the present parkway boundary. The parkway’s 1987 general management plan and 1993 land protection plan update call for acquiring 60 to 80 acres of land to construct a three-quarter-mile spur road, parking area, wayside shelter, and trail to Emerald Mound. Besides enhancing visitor use and interpretation and consolidating parkway lands, this project would enable the National Park Service to improve protection and preservation of this very impressive and valuable ceremonial mound.

In addition, S. 2020 would authorize the Secretary to lease land within the boundary of the parkway to the city of Natchez for purposes compatible with the parkway. Several years ago, the State of Mississippi donated to the National Park Service land that was expected to be used as a right-of-way for the southern terminus. However, this land would not be necessary for the southern terminus under the Liberty Road alternative. The authority provided by S. 2020 would enable the National Park Service to lease a portion of the property to the city of Natchez for public recreational uses.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I will be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.