The Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission (NHDDC) held a Zoom meeting on June 18 to approve the 2020-2021 budget and slate of officers as they enter into the next fiscal year.
“We do have funds to carry over for next year,” said President Van Erickson. “The reason we have these is because some events didn’t occur.” There’s also monies left over from the downtown wifi project the NHDDC had considered investing in, but in the end, decided not to proceed.
The 2020-2021 budget is the same exact budget as last year because the NHDDC has zero clarity on what the outlook is from the state level. Members will reassess once they’ve found out what the extent of the cuts will be.
Slate of officers for 2020-2021:
Vice Chair- Jill Leo
Treasurer- Payne Williams
Erikson gave an update on a new Natchitoches commercial, which will be a lot longer (1.5-2 minutes) than the first 30 second video they released on May 22. This new video will be good for social media and will be released in the next few weeks.
The Go Natchitoches (#gonatchitoches) campaign, which is a collaboration between the CRNHA, the Natchitoches Historic District Business Association (HDBA), the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce, the Natchitoches Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (NACVB), and Natchitoches Main Street. The campaign was started on March 19 to support community businesses.
In other business, Northwestern State University is planning to fully open in the fall with face-to-face classes. The first day of classes will remain on Aug. 17.
“We’re going full force in the fall,” said Erikson, who is also the director of first year experience at NSU. This means consistent temperature checks, a reporting system on cases that do pop up through Health Services, and comprehensive reopening plans that should come out in the next few weeks. “These will answer a lot of questions especially as they relate to larger events like athletics where the community is a participant,” he said.
The Historic District Business Association (HDBA) is moving forward with the Car Show and Christmas Festival. HDBA Director of Festivals and Events Jill Leo said they should be able to accommodate social distancing in the same capacity as they normally operate the Car Show. Christmas Festival will be different and they’ll accommodate as they move forward.
Leo, also the director for the Natchitoches Main Street Program, said they have many fall events penciled in on the Main Street calendar but they’re waiting on confirmation for festivals like Meat Pie and Zydeco. They are planning a Fourth of July celebration with fireworks downtown and a few food vendors. Some restaurants on Front Street with have live music. The Natchitoches Farmers Market has been having really good Saturdays with some really great produce to offer. This will continue through July.
The Cane River Creole National Historical Park entered phase 1 on June 1 so the grounds for Oakland and Magnolia Plantations are open for self guided tours (no restrooms). It looks like these locations will be in phase 1 for quite some time until some of the case numbers start to drop again before the NPS considers entering phase 2 officially. In the meantime, they’re trying to find other ways to stay connected with the community. They will now have a ranger at the Farmers Markets starting this Saturday. They’re also planning some upcoming classes like painting and Hot Yoga, which can be held outside on the park grounds. They’ve also installed new interpretive stations at the Oakland Plantation pavilion. They’re also hosting a Historic Preservation Crew that left in March due to Covid-19. The crew is working on the main house to replace all the window sills and decking. They arrived last week and will be at the park through July so Park Superintendent Carrie Mardorf said she’s really excited about the project.
Natchitoches Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (NACVB) Executive Director Arlene Gould said the Louisiana Office of Tourism recently released numbers for each parish. Visitors to Natchitoches Parish produced nearly $110 million in spending, an increase of 5% over last year, which generated $13.7 million in State and local taxes. Visitor spending in Natchitoches Parish created $39.4 million in direct earnings and 1,430 direct jobs.
Rebecca Blakenbaker, executive director of the Cane River National Heritage Area (CRNHA), updated the commission that Los Adaes grounds are open but the Grand Ecore Visitors Center is still closed. The CRNHA is tentatively scheduling walking tours to pick back up in October. In other business, signs on the El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail are receiving a face lift because they’ve received extensive sun damage.
The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches has a new director of Melrose Plantation- Heather Tichenor from Canada. She is currently working there part time while her husband teaches at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA). Melrose is also open for tours once again. For guided tours you are required to make reservations. The APHN has also decided that its annual Arts and Crafts Festival will be combined with the Fall Tour of Homes (still to be held on the second weekend in October).
Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce President Laura Lyles said the Natchitoches Young Prefessional’s (NYP) Pub Crawl is on the calendar for Nov 7, but no one knows what it’s going to look like yet.
On behalf of the City, Erikson announced that the Grady Erwin Nature Area, which is getting a lot of use, will be expanded. The City is working with landscape architects to connect those trails to the Parc Natchitoches trails. This will create over 12 miles of trails in the new system for the public to enjoy.