Build Multi-Use Trails Along The Natchez Trace Parkway
About Natchez Trace ParkwayThe Natchez Trace Parkway follows a scenic 444-mile route between Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee. It traces the early pathways of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indian tribes, French and Spanish explorers, and American settlers as they traversed the low hills between the Mississippi River and the valley of the Tennessee. For decades, the Old Trace was one of the most important roads in the nation, an avenue of exploration, warfare, trade, and settlement.
In the early 1930s, work began on a Congressionally mandated Parkway, using the labor of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The Emergency Appropriations Act of June 19, 1934, allocated initial construction funds.
The Natchez Trace Parkway was established under the National Park Service in May, 1938, and the majority of construction was completed in 2005. In 2013, the Natchez Trace Parkway celebrates its 75th Anniversary.
BackgroundMulti-Use Trails On The Natchez Trace. The 106th Congress (1999-2001) directed the National Park Service to investigate the feasibility and cost to construct a multi-use trail along the Parkway. In June 2003, a Multi-Use Trail Feasibility Study was prepared by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which examined the feasibility of constructing multi-use trails parallel to the Natchez Trace Parkway motor road.
The study recommended that three sections along the Parkway should have a parallel trail because of traffic volumes, accident data, and national recreational trends. Those sections recommended for multi-use trail segments are within or near the Mississippi cities of Tupelo, Jackson, and Natchez.
Natchez, Mississippi SectionIn the Natchez area, 9.4 miles of trail have been proposed for construction. Initial planning has the Natchez Section of the multi-use trail beginning at the Southern terminus of the Parkway at Liberty Road in Natchez, and continuing north to the Old Trace Exhibit at milepost 8.8. The environmental assessment (EA) has been completed, and the approximate cost for this section is $27.5 million.
Tupelo, Mississippi SectionThe Tupelo section of the multi-use trail is planned to begin at the Black Belt Overlook at milepost 251.9 and continue north to MS Highway 363 near milepost 271. The cost estimate for this 22-mile section is approximately $52.5 million. Environmental compliance has not yet begun for this section. Tupelo is the county seat of Lee County, and the largest city in northeast Mississippi. It is also home to the Natchez Trace Parkway Headquarters.
Jackson SectionThe multi-use trail passes through three metropolitan areas in the Jackson region; Madison, Ridgeland and Jackson, and upon completion to Pinehaven Drive will include a fourth metro area: Clinton. The trail is heavily used by hikers, runners, and bicyclists, and contributes significantly to the Park Service’s goal of connecting people to parks.
Approximately 10.8 miles of the trail in the Jackson area has been completed and 2.2 miles are in the design phase. Currently, the southern terminus of the trail ends in a field adjacent to the Parkway which has no appropriate parking facilities. The most immediate need is for approximately $8 million in funding to construct an additional 2.2 miles of trail leading to the Osburn Stand parking area. This will provide an appropriate pause point for the Trail.
The remaining section of the trail to be constructed in the Jackson area extends from Osburn Stand to Pinehaven Drive. The estimate is approximately $14 million for this additional 4.8 miles of Trail.
At Pinehaven Drive, the City of Clinton is developing a multi-use trail system for their city. The extension of the Natchez Trace multi-use trail to Pinehaven Drive would also connect the users of the trail to the Clinton Visitor’s Center. Upon completion of this section, the total trail length of multi-use trail would be nearly 18 miles.
Approximately 3.1 miles of the multi-use trail was constructed by the City of Ridgeland. The amount of automobile traffic on the Parkway between mileposts 100 and 105 in the Ridgeland suburb ranges from moderate to heavy, so the multi-use trail was a welcome addition for non-motorized users of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
In addition to the community funds supporting the development of multi-use trail segments in Clinton and Ridgeland, funding for the remainder of these projects has come from the Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP).