NPS can do better for historic VNMP

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2018

took advantage of the National Park Service’s annual Fee Free Day Saturday at the Vicksburg National Military Park as part of National Public Lands Day.

The VNMP is one of my most favorite places in Mississippi, and has been for as long as I can remember.

As I drove through the military park and let my mind wander back to the historic significance of what I believe is hallowed ground, I couldn’t help but notice how much the maintenance of the park has changed from when I was a kid in the 70s.

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Back then when my family would make the trek to the VNMP it seemed the grounds were manicured so well that as a 7-year-old I was afraid to walk on the grass, fearing I might disturb the terrain too much with my footprints.

That’s not the case in several places of the VNMP today.

There are areas of the VNMP that are very wooded and full of wilderness, which I believe is great because in my mind I can still imagine those soldiers doing battle through the thickets and brush and woods that are still there today. I can envision soldiers dragging huge cannons up the hilly and wooded gullies and how much of a struggle that must have been. The naturalness gives history more reality for me.

But there are other areas of the VNMP — in particular the terrain around monuments and significant sights for visitors — that should be properly taken care of with mowers.

I drove around to Fort Hill, where access to Confederate Avenue is not available due to a road closure caused by erosion. I stopped at Fort Hill and looked out over the area down below at the Mississippi River.

Fort Hill was significant in the Civil War in that it was the anchor of the left flank of the Confederate defenses. In fact, it was so strong that the Union Army made no attempt to attack the fort during their famous assaults on May 19 and 22.

From this vantage point, visitors can see the bend in the Mississippi River where Union Admiral David Porter’s fleet made the famous run in the dead of night of April 16 past the Vicksburg batteries.

I decided to climb up the steps to Fort Hill where two batteries are positioned and remember what it looked like when I was a kid. Unfortunately, the grass has nearly overtaken both batteries and is nearly as tall as I am. I decided it might be best not to go any further since I wasn’t quite sure what might come crawling through the grass.

I was a bit disappointed, but was even more disappointed for all the visitors from other states who have never had the opportunity to witness the view from Fort Hill due to the overgrowth.

Now I’m not here to bash the local people in charge of the VNMP or the countless volunteers who spend their days and weekends maintaining the grounds of the military park. They can only do so much. It’s time the National Park Service steps up and did their job to provide the resources necessary so the VNMP can keep this historic landmark maintained properly.

I know the NPS has directed nearly $6 million this year towards stabilizing and repairing historic areas of the VNMP, such as the Railroad Redoubt and the Texas State Memorial, but more funding is needed that can be directed towards routine maintenance like mowing the grass.

Rob Sigler is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at