Agreement paves way for walking trails downtown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vicksburg residents are one step closer to enjoying the historical ambience of downtown while burning calories at the same time. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Thursday adopted a resolution to provide in-kind services to five proposed walking trails to be constructed downtown in an effort to provide the area with more enticing amenities.
The paths, which will vary in length, will take pedestrians through some of Vicksburg’s most storied locations. The specific details of the project are still in the beginning phases, but the board’s approval to assist in funding the trails is a key step to moving the project forward.
“This has been a project we’ve been working on for a long time, since probably last October, I suspect,” director of community development Victor Gray-Lewis said.
Mayor George Flaggs Jr. formed an ad hoc committee last year, made up of downtown churches and businesses, to spearhead the project. After discussing ideas to improve the area, the group eventually landed on the proposed installation of five walking trails.
“We went to Natchez to look at their walking trails and we really liked the way they did their trails,” Gray-Lewis said. “We came back here, and it was a group effort, and we started looking at putting together walking trails in the Vicksburg area.”
The committee has applied for a $25,000 grant from the National Park Service, Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative to help fund the project.
“If we can get the grant, we still may come up a bit short, which we may have to go and find donations, unless the city decides to contribute,” Gray-Lewis said. “We’re much closer now. If we get the grant we’ll be good to go.”
The city has offered to match the grant with $15,000 in mostly in-kind services in addition to the potential grant —something Flaggs believes will help spur an influx in downtown business.
“We believe (the walking trails) will create some more amenities to downtown, make it more attractive downtown, more user-friendly for downtown; then that helps with the advertising and the commercial use of downtown,” he said.
“If we can do that, and get the grant, then we can provide some of the service — that’s the in-kind — in lieu of money.”
Installing the routes, which will be color-coded and labeled with tableaus to explain the historical significance of trail site properties, will help Vicksburg residents connect with their city while enjoying the outdoors.
“There is a need to manage our weight and to eat healthy and to exercise. These walking trails will provide that opportunity, the opportunity to burn calories, exercise, build muscle and stay fit and trim,” Gray-Lewis said. “It’s a wonderful way to learn Vicksburg history, burn calories and just have a good time and enjoy yourself.”
In other action, the board also approved the execution of a $50,000 grant agreement with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for a recycling program. The money, which will be allocated by the newly formed Vicksburg Beautification Committee, will be used to promote and improve recycling initiatives across the city.
“What we probably will look at is putting out recycling bins in certain areas and hope we can try and educate the public to use those recycling bin,” Gray-Lewis said.

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