Proposed tourist route would take visitors through downtown

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 29, 2001

[10/26/01]An alternate route to the entrance of the Vicksburg National Military Park has been proposed as a way to get more park visitors to drive through the downtown area.

Eric Biedenharn, newly elected chairman of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, described the idea to the VCVB board Thursday. It is an alternate to a suggestion made by Mayor Laurence Leyens that the VCVB close its tourist information center across from the park’s Clay Street entrance.

In a letter to Leyens, Biedenharn proposed to call the new route the “Scenic Mississippi River Route to the Vicksburg National Military Park.”

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

The proposed route would direct visitors to exit Interstate 20 at Washington Street instead of Clay. Signs would then direct visitors north on Washington, east on Lee and north on Drummond to Harris. Traffic then would be guided on Cherry Street to Clay to Washington to Grove and to the Old Court House Museum. Visitors would be directed past Anchuca and Duff Green bed and breakfast inns and Walnut Hills restaurant before returning to Clay, headed for the park.

“I drove it and it took me 27 minutes,” Biedenharn said.

“This is a more effective way” of getting tourists to come to downtown, Biedenharn said.

He said the proposal may need some fine-tuning.

“We can play with the route, but it has a lot of merit,” Biedenharn said.

Leyens said he supports the idea because it will bring about half of the 1 million visitors to the park each year through parts of the city they normally would not see.

“Approximately 60 percent of our visitors to the park come from Louisiana and we want to route them through our economic model and show them our community,” Leyens said.

On a motion by board member Betty Jackson, the board directed Biedenharn and Executive Director Lenore Barkley to continue work on the proposal with Leyens, other city officials and members of the local tourism industry.

Leyens said the option to close the tourist information center on Clay Street and move it to the Levee Street Depot was just a suggestion to help get visitors to see the downtown area.

“It was just an idea,” Leyens said. “But it is still on the table.”

The VCVB board is composed of city and county appointees and operates outside the direct control of City Hall or the courthouse.

In other action, the board:

Authorized Barkley to arrange for a line of credit up to $40,000. Barkley told the board the bureau may need some interim financing to carry it through the first several months of 2002, generally slack times for income.

Heard a report from Barkley that the check received from the Mississippi Tax Commission in October was $53,712.11 after deductions by the state. The October 2000 check was for $56,808, but no deductions were taken at that time.

Welcomed Cheryl Comans, customer service representative for Entergy, and Patrick Jordan, assistant general manager at Ameristar Casino Vicksburg, as new members of the board. They replaced J. Mack Varner and Dr. John Walls whose terms had expired.

Elected Biedenharn chairman to replace Varner and Patty Cappaert secretary to replace Walls.