Supervisors’ decision paves way for upping ante in tourism here

Published 11:33 am Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Warren County Board of Supervisors decision Monday to let Friends of the Vicksburg Bridge begin examining insurance costs and options for a possible park is another positive step in improving the city’s position as a major tourist destination.

With city and tourism officials looking for ways to make Vicksburg a unique travel destination, opening the bridge to pedestrian and bicycle traffic can give visitors and local residents a view of the Mississippi River few cities can match. Imagine people being able tell the folks back home they walked across the Mississippi into Louisiana and back.

Local lawyer Buddy Dees, who spoke on behalf of Friends of the Vicksburg Bridge Monday, told the board the bridge is open to foot traffic several times throughout the year, most notably during October’s Over the River Run, Dees said.

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The bridge has been the course for the Over the River Run since 1989. It is also and part of the Bricks and Spokes bicycle course, which also occurs in October, and the opportunity to ride a bicycle across the river the into Louisiana is one of the major draws of an event that brings people here from across the state and the south.

All someone has to do is walk in the parking lots before either event to see car tags from Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Alabama. In October 2014, more than 200 bike riders crossed the bridge during Bricks and Spokes.

“It’s not that novel. We’ve already got our toe in the pool. We just want to dive in the pool.” Dees said of the group’s proposal to turn the bridge into a park.

Opening the bridge full time could help draw tourists in for a one-of-a-kind view of the Mississippi River, Dees said.

“We think it would be a tremendous tourism boom to this area,” he said. “We just want to get the bridge open and they will come.”

And so, possibly, will local residents, who see the bridge as a potential new course for their daily strolls — different scenery from other walking courses in town, such as downtown and the Vicksburg National Military Park.

“This could be the premiere, ideal spot for exercise in all of Vicksburg,” said Linda Fondren, fitness guru, founder of Shape Up Sisters and a member of the Friends of the Bridge.

The battle to open the bridge to walkers has been raging off and on for several years and has received an ally in U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. It’s good to see the supervisors weighing in on the side of the friends group.

“I definitely think we need to do whatever we have to and try to go forward with it,” Board of Supervisors President Bill Lauderdale said.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon also supported turning the bridge into a park.

“I’m 100 percent. I think we need to have some type of recreation on that bridge. I’m all in for that. It will be an economic boost, and it will help the people of Vicksburg and Warren County.”