City hands land to Corps for museum|[04/06/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2007

Vicksburg officials voted Thursday to turn over land to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the first phase of the Corps’ planned interpretive museum, a project that has been under way since Congress originally authorized it in 1992 with $2 million for planning. It has since been appropriated a total of $5 million.

The museum, which gained momentum in 1995 under the Joe Loviza administration, has been brought back to life by Mayor Laurence Leyens and his board, who have invested heavily in a makeover of the City Front area.

Moving the MV Mississippi, the 218-foot towboat built in 1961, to the planned site along Jackson Street between Washington and Levee streets will be the first step in a project that will take about two more years to complete.

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The site where the vessel will be moved was purchased by the city for $692,000 in order to secure the museum site. It will be given to the Corps as a matching grant to the project, Leyens said.

He said before the MV Mississippi, which served as the Corps’ flagship for 30 years, could begin its journey from the Yazoo Diversion Canal to the museum site, the Corps had to acquire the land. Work to tow, lift and restore the vessel is set to begin this month, he added.

The vessel has been docked in the canal since the city purchased it from the Corps for $1 in 1995.

Plans are to build a cradle, tow it to New Orleans, lift it onto a barge and float it down the river and back to Vicksburg, where it will be pushed up a ramp and onto land.

Once complete, the museum will depict the history of the Corps, the branch of the U.S. Army assigned to civil works, including flood control and navigation on the Mississippi River. Tours of the MV Mississippi will also be available.

The project is part of an overall redevelopment of City Front with city, state, federal and private funds. The city opened the $17.5 million Art Park at Catfish Row in 2003. A year earlier, a committee was formed to oversee historical murals placed on the floodwall. And, in March the Vicksburg Transportation Museum, a nonprofit organization that houses the Levee Street Depot, received $1.65 million in funds from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to go forward with starting the museum.