Next phase of rate hikes set for military park

Published 6:27 pm Monday, August 7, 2017

Some visitors will soon have to pay a slightly higher entrance fee to Vicksburg National Military Park. 

Effective Aug. 28, the rate for motorcycles will rise from $7 to $10 and the rate for walkers and cyclist will rise from $5 to $7. The rates hikes are the final phase of a planned rate increase that began in Jan. 2016, when the motorcycle and walker/bicycle fee were raised from $4 to $7 and $5 respectively.

“The decision was made to phase-in the fee increases over a couple of years to ease the burden on visitors,” acting Vicksburg National Military Park superintendent Sarah Davis said in a release. “We are committed to keeping the park affordable but we also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience.”

The price for vehicles will remain $15, which has been in effect since it was raised from $12 in January. The annual pass rate was raised to $30 from $25 at the same time and will remain the same.

The money from entrance fees is used to make changes that, “improve the visitor experience” Scott Babinowich, VNMP chief of interpretation, said. Money from entrance fees was recently used to refurbish the visitor center bathrooms and more projects are planned for the near future.

“A lot of the money will be going in the future towards replacing some of our wayside exhibits,” Babinowich said. “Those are the informational panels you see throughout the park. Their life cycle is about 10 years, so we will be working to replace some of those.”

There are also plans to update the exhibits and the movie at the U.S.S. Cairo museum within the next two years, Babinowich said.

The new rates bring the park into line with the National Military Park’s fee structure for similar sized parks, which include Hot Springs National Park and Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas, and Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The other big change that will take place Aug. 28 is a restructuring of the lifetime senior pass rates.
Lifetime senior passes have been available to those 62 and older for $10 since 1994. Starting Aug. 28, that rate will increase to $80 and a new annual senior pass will be available for $20. A senior pass allows holders to enter any national park in the country.

Those who already have passes will be able to continue using them.

Along with the increase, the use of fees collected via the senior pass is also changing. Previously, that money stayed with the park where the pass was purchased. It will now go into a system-wide pool.

“Based on the legislation that passed through Congress at the end of last year, it created a new fund where all the senior pass money goes to a central fund that parks can apply for and put projects towards to help with maintenance projects,” Babinowich said.

Although they may lose some money upfront, Babinowich said in the end, the new pot of money could be very helpful.

“That bigger pot that this money is now going towards can help fund some of those bigger projects like road repair, places where we’ve had the slough off of the slope,” he said. “Things that the prices are too high that we can’t cover with our entrance fees.”

For more information about the rate increases, call 601-636-0583.