Work in underway on a new green space with a walking trail on Jefferson Street. After the City received a donation of the land and the University Cleaners building, it also purchased the two lots with houses next-door. The cleaners was torn down in October, 2017 and the two houses were next.
The new green space and walking trail is a joint beautification project between the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the City of Natchitoches, and the Cane River National Heritage Area.
Phase 1 includes a parking lot and walking trail, which is scheduled for completion within the next two weeks. Phase 2 will include benches, a smaller version of the pavilion at city park, which will be built inside the loop of the walking track. Additional enhancements are planned for a later date.
The City grew about 15 Cypress trees from seedlings that now stand four-feet tall. They were planted on the high bank across the back of the property. This project features a more natural aesthetic and has very different landscaping from previous projects.
There is also a wetlands area behind the property that connects to Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site. It is full of local flora and fauna, which the project partners plan to keep protected.
Another aspect of this green area is to add a plaque portraying the historical significance of the road it’s on.
A plaque will be installed in the park upon its completion to bring awareness to the area’s history.
“Historically the Natchitoches portion of the Jefferson Highway was one of the most well traveled and maintained portions,” said Rebecca Blakenbaker, CRNHA Executive Director. “It’s an honor to pay homage to that particular part of Natchitoches’ history by having this plaque placed along Jefferson Street. It’s these corridors that promoted traveling and tourism and the Jefferson Highway Association is always looking for ways to improve tourism along the trail. Visitors and residents always enjoy learning tidbits of information about Natchitoches’ history through these interpretive plaques.”
Jefferson Street is part of the historic Jefferson Highway, which was first formed in New Orleans in 1915 and once traversed from Winnipeg, Manitoba to New Orleans as part of the “Good Roads Movement” of this time period. Communities along the route worked together to improve roads, bridges and promote the route which was once a principal travel route through Louisiana.
The Jefferson Highway along with other historic highways later lost most of their identity when these “named roads” were nationally changed to numerical designations. Much of the old Jefferson Highway roadbed though remains up and down the historic route today and enthusiasts are now working to make it a viable north-south historic byway across the country for modern day tourists.
In 2011, the Jefferson Highway Association was reformed as a historical, heritage organization to preserve the history of the historic route and promote tourism and travel on the historic roadbed which goes through seven states (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana) and one Province (Manitoba) in Canada. This will be the 8th annual conference for this group and the first to be held in Louisiana.