Park Day will center on cemetery cleanup, cannons

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 29, 2009

With approximately 1,800 acres of land, 1,300 monuments, 16 miles of roadway and 18,000 headstones in its National Cemetery, the Vicksburg National Military Park is constantly in need of helping hands to maintain the 110-year-old park. 

Sign up for Park Day at Vicksburg National Military Park will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at the USS Cairo exhibit parking lot, located near the National Cemetery. The first 100 volunteers will receive a free T-shirt. Lunch is provided. Park Day at the Raymond battlefield will also begin at 8 a.m., with T-shirts and lunch provided. To get to the Raymond battlefield from Vicksburg, take Interstate 20 east to the Bolton exit. Go south until the road ends and turn left  into downtown Raymond, then take a right at Port Gibson Street.  

“There’s never enough people to do all the work that needs to be done here,” said Rick Martin, VNMP chief of operations.

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This Saturday, members of public are encouraged to pitch in at VNMP by cleaning gravestones, restoring the cemetery gate and painting cannons as part of Park Day.

Now in its 13th year, Park Day is a hands-on preservation event created by the Civil War Preservation Trust to assist in maintaining Civil War sites. More than 100 sites in 24 states will participate with local events on Saturday — including the Raymond battlefield, where cannons need painting and assembling, said retired Brig. Gen. Parker Hills.

“It’s important to recognize the history we have in our community, and help preserve it,” said Hills, a member and former president of the Friends of Raymond.

The Raymond battlefield has held Park Day events annually since 1998 and won an award in 2005 for the best Park Day event in the country, Hills said.

“We usually get around 75 people, which is a really good turnout considering the town of Raymond is less than 2,000 people,” Hills said. “Anybody who wants to come out can help in some way. We always have trash detail and cannons to paint.”

Now in its fourth year, VNMP’s Park Day event is still growing, said Martin. There were 34 volunteers last year, up from nine its first year. 

“We’re going to concentrate on the National Military Cemetery this year, it needs to be spruced up,” he said. “We also have some cannons that need to be painted.”

Volunteers are asked to bring water and wear clothes they don’t mind getting dirty, closed-toed shoes and work gloves. Sandals are prohibited. Historical presentations will also be made at both Vicksburg and Raymond.

With a membership 60,000 strong, CWPT is the largest non-profit battlefield preservation organization in the country. Park Day is underwritten with a grant from History, former The History Channel, and is a partner of Take Pride In America, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior.


Contact Steve Sanoski at