35 walking trail markers dedicated to Vicksburg’s heritage

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Vicksburg and county tourism officials Wednesday officially opened a system of trails totaling 10.5 miles through the city’s downtown and historic districts to tell its story.

Called the “Heritage Walking Trails,” the system consists of five trails, all beginning at the Yazoo& Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot on Levee Street with 35 markers posted along the way to explain the history of an area, its buildings or the people who lived there.

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The project was funded by a $25,000 Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative grant with the city providing a $15,000 match of in-kind labor.

“This is a project that was not done overnight,” community development director Victor Grey-Lewis said. “It’s a project that started about four years ago with the direction of Mayor (George) Flaggs, who appointed a committee to research projects to develop economic tourism downtown.”

He said the committee performed research and visited other communities before recommending the trails project.

Tim McCarley, who assisted with the project, said the influence behind the project was to assist foreign tourists who like to walk through the city.

“We ended up with a nice trail with five alternate routes,” he said. “It has the majority of the best stuff we have to offer. We couldn’t tell everybody’s story, so we told snippets of a whole bunch of stories all over town.”

Scott Babinowich, the chief of interpretation at the Vicksburg National Military Park, said the information presented on the markers “whets the appetite of people walking around.”

“It might spark their interest; they might look something up, they might come back, they might further investigate. You always leave the visitor or the tourist wanting more.

“You want them to experience them on their own, you want to give them that take home message, go forward and really transcend their physical visit to Vicksburg.”

The trails project, he said, will help entice visitors to come downtown and “see the unique history and culture that we have, but it takes a look at Vicksburg from beyond the Civil War. It tells some of that story, but it looks beyond the Civil War. It tells the story of our culture and heritage, it tells the story of individuals, of businessmen families, people we can all relate to an event.”

Pablo Diaz, executive director for the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce said the trails are preserving the heritage and preserving the culture that makes Vicksburg unique, “And makes it the best city to live and to tour and to be a tourist” in the State of Mississippi.

“There is no way you can replicate the beautiful heritage and the beautiful history, economic and cultural and otherwise, that our buildings demonstrate to the world, to the community. You cannot order these on Amazon.

“No one can have it because it’s ours. It’s Vicksburg, and we should protect it, and I think that this project definitely does that.”

He invited the community to come walk the trails “so that you understand the beauty and the heritage that you have around you. There is so much history and value and understanding in the buildings that surround us.”

Flaggs said the markers with their illustrations were a very good way of recording the city’s past and the present and then looking to its future.

“I’m excited because of the fact it’s more than just an entity, and that it provides opportunities for a cultural understanding of this community. More importantly, while doing it, you can get some exercise.

“I have every intention within the next 30 days of touching each of these markers and reading every last one of them so I can have a more enriched knowledge of the history of Vicksburg and so I can better understand the history of Vicksburg.”

Looking back on the project’s history, he said, “We said it could be done and it was done. If you dream it and believe it can be done.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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