Superintendent seeking funds to repair military park monuments

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Vicksburg National Military Park is Vicksburg’s main attraction and many are working together to make sure the park’s monuments and markers are preserved for years to come.

Currently, the state of the Missouri Monument has taken center stage. Just two weeks ago, lawmakers in Missouri said they had reserved $375,000 for the repairs, but the Department of National Resources said money from that particular fund could not be designated to the monument.

Park superintendent Bill Justice said he’s not worried about the funding from the state of Missouri because the VNMP is seeking a funding source from the federal government that is used to rehabilitate historic structures, which he hopes will come through.

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“We are competing with over 400 parks for the funding, and we have to make the case the job needs to be done,” Justice said.

He said he feels comfortable they will be able to fully fund the project if they do receive the federal government money.

“But that’s still premature,” Justice said.

He said the Missouri monument needs repairs to some of the masonry and casting. Plus, he said, some previous repairs have caused some current issues that need to be fixed. Justice said the memorial is even missing a few pieces that need to be remodeled and placed back on the structure.

Earlier this year, a small crew took care of some of the markers and made sure they were waxed and cleaned so the bronze didn’t turn green. Justice said a lot of the larger memorials still need work.

He said the Wisconsin monument has stains on the steps and the Texas monument has soil that needs to be stabilized before repairs can even be made.

Multiple states have monuments or markers in the park including Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa and Missouri to name a few. These memorials are funded by a mixture of state and federal funds as well as by private organizations. Each state’s monument is different with some having a large memorial with a few smaller markers and others like Ohio still opting for multiple small markers.

“Each state took a different approach to the memorials,” Justice said.

A number of the markers are located outside the park. Even though the land was given to the city, the monuments are still federal government property. There are 1,300 total markers.

“The park is one of the largest collections of outdoor art,” Justice said. “I believe the only one bigger is at Versailles.”

It’s very important to him that these historic reminders be preserved. Justice is working on a plan to keep all the monuments in good shape for years to come.

“It’s our job to be stewards of these resources,” Justice said. “It’s a mission and not just a job. People came, fought and died and this is a way to remember their contributions.”