Military Park changes|Landscape at VNMP to travel back in time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Soon, the landscape of the Vicksburg National Military Park will see some changes to match a management plan announced at an open house Tuesday night.

To view a map of the proposed park changes, click here

Park Historian Terry Winschel said vistas will allow visitors to see what soldiers, North and South, saw here in 1862 and 1863 during a pivotal battle of the War Between the States. The plan, Winschel said, will “reveal the terrain features that helped make Vicksburg a natural fortress.”

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The 1,800-acre main park area rims the old city, preserving siege lines established when the city couldn’t be taken by force. Before and after the war, the park was private land, mostly clear of trees and vegetation, until obtained for preservation by Congress in 1899. Since then, much of the terrain has been filled in by foliage.

“Right now it’s muzzled by a layer of trees,” Winschel said. “If we can unmuzzle it and allow it to speak for itself, it’ll speak volumes.”

A team of VNMP staff — consisting of park representatives from areas such as maintenance, history and natural resources — has worked for about two years on a sustainable plan to best display the park’s physical and historical features. The team announced at the open house plans to move forward with what it calls Alternative C: Rehabilitate/Maintain Areas of Key Military Engagements.

Of the 1,800 acres, 550 of which are now cleared, the plan calls to clear about 90 more acres of forested land around Jackson Road, Graveyard Road and Baldwin Ferry Road.

Though the foliage, much of it established by the Civilian Conservation Corps after the Great Depression, has helped fend off erosion, it also masks some of the authentic scenes. Winschel said visitors can’t gain a full appreciation for the park and its history unless they can see what the soldiers saw.

About 22 acres of Chinese privet will also be cleared from the sides of streams, where the shallow roots have left the ground more susceptible to wearing away.

The main park is joined by the Cairo Museum, which houses a restored Union ironclad, and the Vicksburg National Military Cemetery, which has 18,000 graves, mostly of unknown soldiers. Supplemental areas include the Grant’s Canal site in Louisiana, Pemberton House on Crawford Street and two river overlooks on Washington Street.

Another change for the park is the departure today of Superintendent Monika Mayr after 4 1/2 years. She is becoming a deputy superintendent at Blue Ridge Parkway.

John Bundy will serve as acting superintendent for the next three months.


Contact Andrea Basquez at