VNMP hosts cleanup on Public Lands Day

Published 8:48 pm Saturday, September 24, 2016


Members of the community came together over the weekend to give back to Vicksburg’s own national park.

Saturday was National Public Lands Day and the Vicksburg National Military Park participated by hosting a cleanup day at the Shirley House.

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“Across the country people are doing service projects to support their public lands,” Molly Cadwell, VNMP volunteer coordinator, said. Those public lands include national parks, national forests and national wildlife refuges.

About 40 people came together at 8 a.m. Saturday morning to clean up the rose garden in front of the Shirley House, and about 10 people painted cannon carriages just around the corner. The historically accurate rose garden was planted a few years ago based on the writings of  former resident Alice Shirley, she said.

“People are weeding and tilling, and then we’ll put compost and mulch down,” Cadwell said.

Fredrick Grace was volunteering on National Public Lands Day for the first time with his son, who was there working with his Boy Scout troop.

“I’m just cleaning up around the rose bushes, (clearing out) all the debris and weeds,” Grace said. “It’s helping our environment, and it enhances our Military Park. It’s history.”

Cadwell was pleased with the turnout and the variety of ages and genders giving up their Saturday morning to give back. Plus, she said there were park employees from all different areas of the park like interpretation, natural resources, maintenance, law enforcement and superintendent Bill Justice out working in the team effort.

“Everyone’s working really hard, and we really appreciate it,” Cadwell said.

D. Liam Walters, 12, said he thought National Public Lands Day would be the perfect opportunity to earn some service hours for school.

“I felt it would be like killing two birds with one stone, as in I can help cleanup and I can also gain some service hours,” Walters said.

The St. Francis Xavier student raked grass, used a pitchfork to put the grass in a garbage bag and helped other volunteers.

“Everyone helped each other,” Walters said.

He said it was important to help cleanup the military park for the tourists who visit from around the world.

“When visitors come they would like to see a clean, well taken care of place, and they don’t see that if they see a bunch of grass growing in the rose bushes or grass too tall to walk through,” Walters said.

The National Park Service motto for its centennial year has been Find Your Park, and Bess Averett, executive director of the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park, said she is glad so many people came out and found this park Saturday.

“We sure are glad these volunteers found us. It’s amazing what a big group can do in two hours,” Averett said.“We’ve had a really great turnout. It’s just so important. These historic gardens are hard to maintain on top of the other grass cutting things the maintenance staff has to do because its more tedious, hands-on work.

“If not for volunteers a couple times a year coming out, I don’t know that we’d be able to really maintain the garden. We’re appreciative and grateful.”

For those who want to volunteer indoors and more regularly, the park has opportunities for volunteers to welcome guests at the front desk and the desk at the Cairo Museum. To register for those and other jobs, visit and search Vicksburg, Mississippi.