1998 Regular Session
To: Public Property
By: Senator(s) Simmons, Walls, Dearing, Johnson (38th), Horhn, Furniss
Senate Bill 3044
(As Sent to Governor)
AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION, ON BEHALF OF THE DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE, FISHERIES AND PARKS, TO CONVEY ALL OF ITS RIGHT, TITLE AND INTERESTS IN THE GREAT RIVER ROAD STATE PARK TO THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE "GREAT RIVER EXPLORERS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK"; TO AUTHORIZE QUITMAN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT TO TRANSFER THE OLD FALCON SCHOOL PROPERTY TO THE QUITMAN COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS FOR USE AS A SENIOR CITIZEN DAY CARE FACILITY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
WHEREAS, in 1541, Hernando De Soto, as leader of a Spanish exploration expedition, became the first European to see the Mississippi River. As such, he is commonly named as its "discoverer." It is generally agreed that the discovery took place on the east bank of the Mississippi River somewhere between present-day Rosedale, Mississippi, and present-day Walls, Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, in 1542, after wandering about in what is now Arkansas, De Soto returned to the Mississippi, died, and was buried in the River under the cover of darkness, at a point somewhere between present-day Rosedale, Mississippi, and present-day Natchez, Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, the remnants of De Soto's army over-wintered at some point north of the place of his burial, where they built large boats which they used to take them down the Mississippi River to safety in Mexico in 1543; and
WHEREAS, United States Congress House Document No. 71, 76th Congress, 1st Session, "Final Report of the United States De Soto Expedition Commission," narrates De Soto's historical journey through this region; and
WHEREAS, in July 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet led the second expedition of Europeans to explore the Mississippi River. In canoes, they descended the River from the Great Lakes as far as an Indian village on the east bank of the River just north of and opposite the mouth of the Arkansas River, virtually on the exact spot of the Great River Road State Park. Here, they were entertained and headed back toward Quebec after learning from the Indians that the River flowed into the Gulf of Mexico instead of into what is now known as the Pacific Ocean as they had hoped; and
WHEREAS, nine years later, in 1682, Rene' Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, another Frenchman and leader of the third European exploration of the Mississippi River, became the first European explorer to travel the length of the Mississippi River to its mouth. On his way down the River, in March 1682, on a spot within several miles of the Great River Road State Park, La Salle built the second fort in the Mississippi valley. At that same time, La Salle was entertained at an Indian village opposite the site of the fort, and there on March 13, for the first time, he planted the Arms of France, erected a cross, celebrated Mass and claimed the Mississippi valley for the King of France. On April 6, La Salle reached the passes in the delta of the River and repeated the ceremony. On his return trip back up the River toward Quebec, the cross opposite Rosedale was still standing and the Indians had enclosed it with a palisade or fence; and
WHEREAS, in 1685 La Salle, sailing from France, attempted to land at the mouth of the River, but overshot it and landed in Texas near the Brazos River. His ships were destroyed in a sudden storm. While going overland to find the Mississippi River, La Salle was assassinated by some of his men. Remnants of his party, after wandering for more than a thousand miles for six months, finally struck the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Arkansas, just south of Rosedale, Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, the vicinity of the proposed National Historical Park is nationally significant because it is the only vicinity closely associated with all of the first three European explorations of the Mississippi River valley. These explorations had a significant impact on the history and development of the United States, including establishing France as a colonial power through the middle third of the present-day continental United States which resulted in the introduction of French-speaking people in large numbers. The descendants of these settlers have had a major impact on the culture of the United States. Further, all of the early explorers, De Soto, Marquette and Joliet, and La Salle, are significant in the history of this nation; and
WHEREAS, the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative of the National Park Service has documented and recognized the overwhelming national importance of the Mississippi River and the significant national contributions made by the early explorers; and
WHEREAS, Mark Twain, the great author and authority on the Mississippi River, stated in his Life on the Mississippi about the area of the Mississippi River near its junction with the Arkansas River, "Therefore, three out of the four memorable events connected with the discovery and exploration of the mighty river, occurred, by accident, in one and the same place." That place has a modern name - Rosedale, Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, leading scholars agree that there is a definite place for an interpretive museum devoted to the exploration of the Mississippi River in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries and that this museum should also strive to reconstruct the social history of the native societies of this same era. An interpretive museum located within the proposed "Great River Explorers National Historical Park" will contribute much to the enlightenment of our citizenry on the importance of Mississippi River Exploration and Native Society during this period; and
WHEREAS, no unit of the National Park Service exists on the banks of the Mississippi River which interprets the expeditions and contributions of all of these great Mississippi River explorers; and
WHEREAS, no unit of the National Park Service exists which interprets the lives and ways of the Native Americans who encountered these explorers; and
WHEREAS, there is a great need for a national historical park that will interpret the exploration of the Mississippi River in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries; and
WHEREAS, the Great River Road State Park occupies the most appropriate location along the Mississippi River for visitors to learn more about the early explorers and the Native Americans they encountered; and
WHEREAS, the Great River Road State Park is located within the limits of the City of Rosedale, in Bolivar County, Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, a National Historical Park at Rosedale would be one of many attractions of interest to history-oriented visitors in the vicinity. Others include the Winterville Mounds State Park, the Walter Sillers House, the Grace Episcopal Church, and more; and
WHEREAS, the lands on which the Great River Road State Park is located are sixteenth section lands which were set aside, reserved and dedicated for 99 years in 1975 by Bolivar County to the Mississippi State Park Commission for the purpose of locating a state park thereon; and
WHEREAS, the Great River Road State Park is wholly located within the boundaries of the federally-designated Mid-Delta Empowerment Zone, one of only three rural empowerment zones in the nation. Creation of the proposed National Historical Park would help diversify the local economy, provide jobs for local residents and help reduce local poverty; and
WHEREAS, Delta State University is located eighteen miles from the Great River Road State Park and maintains various academic programs which would significantly benefit from an active relationship with the programs of the proposed National Historical Park; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor and City Council of the City of Rosedale and the Board of Supervisors of Bolivar County each unanimously passed resolutions urging the creation of the proposed National Historical Park on the site of the existing Great River Road State Park, and both resolutions urged that the State of Mississippi, for no compensation, transfer all assets of the Great River Road State Park to the National Park Service for its use in the creation and operation of the proposed park; and
WHEREAS, Delta State University has formally endorsed the creation of the proposed National Historical Park. In his letter of endorsement, dated September 16, 1997, the President of the University stated, "The area currently occupied by the Great River Road State Park is one of the most historic spots on the entire Mississippi River." The letter further related the direct involvement of each of the first three explorations with this site. Further, the letter stated that the Department of History and the Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation specifically endorsed the creation of the proposed National Historical Park; and
WHEREAS, the proposed National Historical Park has been evaluated based on the criteria used by the National Park Service to determine whether a proposed park should be established. The proposed Great River Explorers National Historical park exceeds the established criteria; and
WHEREAS, creation of the National Historical Park will annually attract tens of thousands of historically-oriented tourists who might not otherwise have traveled to Mississippi: NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The Congress of the United States is urged to create the "Great River Explorers National Historical Park" on the site of the present Great River Road State Park, as a unit of the National Park Service, with the purpose of the Great River Explorers National Historical Park to interpret the expeditions of the first three (3) great explorations of the Mississippi River by De Soto, Marquette and Joliet, and La Salle, and to interpret the social history, lives and ways of the Native Americans they encountered near the river.
SECTION 2. If the Congress will take the action urged in Section 1 of this act, the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, on behalf of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, for no compensation, shall transfer and assign the assets of the Great River Road State Park to the National Park Service for its use in the creation and operation of the Great River Explorers National Historical Park, subject to the State of Mississippi's continued ownership of the lands as sixteenth section lands. If the National Park Service ceases to use the Great River Road State Park as a national park, then the assets of the park shall be transferred back to the State of Mississippi. Further, the local school board in Bolivar County with responsibility for these sixteenth section lands is authorized to set aside, reserve and dedicate these lands, including the surface and subsurface natural resources, for a period of ninety-nine (99) years, to the National Park Service for the purpose of establishing the Great River Explorers National Historical Park thereon.
SECTION 3. The National Park Service, in operation of the park, is urged to hire all of the employees of the Great River Road State Park on the date of transfer.
SECTION 4. The Congress of the United States is urged to appropriate sufficient construction funds for the National Park Service to develop a museum and interpretive exhibits at the park which will educate visitors generally about the explorers, their expeditions, and the Native Americans they encountered, and which will specifically interpret the local historical events related to these and other expeditions which occurred in the vicinity of the Great River Explorers National Historical Park.
SECTION 5. The Congress is further urged to appropriate sufficient operating funds for the National Park Service to adequately manage an active interpretive program at the Great River Explorers National Historical Park.
SECTION 6. The National Park Service is encouraged to enter into a mutually supportive cooperative agreement with Delta State University regarding the operation of all appropriate aspects of the programs of the Great River Explorers National Historical Park.
SECTION 7. Supplementary to any other law, the Quitman County School District may transfer for nominal consideration or no consideration the Old Falcon School property to the Quitman County Board of Supervisors for use for a senior or elderly day care facility, provided that said transaction is made within thirty (30) days after the effective date of this section. This section shall be effective from and after passage and shall stand repealed on January 1, 1999.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.