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Park cuts night parking at overlooks

A car enters the Mississippi River scenic overlook on Louisiana Circle Monday.(Brian Loden The Vicksburg Post)

sknowlton@vicksburgpost.com

[7/27/04]Entrances to the semicircular drives that overlook the Mississippi River are now marked with signs saying the areas are off limits after dark for parking, sparking or anything else.

Navy and Louisiana circles off Washington Street and a loop at Grant’s Canal across the river in Louisiana have always been closed at night, said Vicksburg National Military Park ranger Patty Montague, and the signs just make it official.

“We were continually having incidents,” Montague said. “There’s quite a bit of activity up there.”

Similar signs are also at the USS Cairo pavilion and near the Visitor Center at the park’s main entrance. The circles are remote from the larger park around the city’s rim, but are federal property.

The Vicksburg Police Department, the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and park law-enforcement staff continually find people parked on the circles after dark, Montague said.

“Some folks are looking at the river; some are not,” she said.

The signs are to make sure people know to leave at sunset and not come back before dawn, Montague said.

Activity on the circles has included vandalism, possession of weapons, drug deals and “people partaking in activities which one would not normally do in public,” Montague said.

While the signs went up, barricades did not. Someone who was “making a quick run through town” and wanted to spend a minute or two viewing the river from one of the overlooks may not be asked to move on, Montague said.

As for “people setting up shop, staying, parking, planting themselves and spending time there,” the rule will definitely be enforced, she added. The fine if a citation is given is $50.

The semicircle that traffic enters on the north side of the Mississippi Welcome Center and the entrance to the old, U.S. 80 Bridge is Navy Circle. The semicircle about a half-mile north of there is Louisiana Circle. Both were among many gun emplacements along the river when Confederate forces were defending the city from the Union fleet during the Civil War.