Local nonprofit will fund VNMP while government is partially shutdown

Published 10:46 am Friday, December 21, 2018

With a partial government shutdown now in place as elected federal officials wrangle over money for a wall along the U.S. Mexico border, the Vicksburg National Military Park will remain open thanks to a local nonprofit organization.

Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign have committed to fund basic operations of the VNMP through the help of donors and partners.

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According to Bess Mitchell Averett, executive director of Friends of VNMP & Campaign, the tour road, Visitor Center, U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat and Museum, the Vicksburg National Cemetery and all restrooms will be kept open.

She said minimal staff to operate those sites will ensure the shutdown has little impact on visitors to the VNMP.

“Vicksburg National Military Park represents such an important chapter of America’s story. We never want even one visitor to be turned away from our Park,” Averett said in a press release from Friends of VNMP & Campaign. “We are fortunate to have staff at VNMP who share our passion for this historic place and its story and have worked to pioneer this opportunity to provide an option to keep VNMP open in the event of a shutdown.”

The partial federal shutdown was expected to drag into Christmas as President Donald Trump and congressional leaders remained stuck in a standoff over his border wall with Mexico with no breakthrough Saturday.

The disruption affects many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and will work unpaid just days before Christmas. An additional 380,000 will be furloughed, meaning they will stay home without pay.

During the last government shutdown in January 2018, VNMP was closed for three days.

“VNMP will remain open,” Averett said. “As the official Friends Group for the Park, we work together all year on important projects and events for VNMP. We can think of no higher priority project we can take on than keeping the gates and museums open and sharing this amazing treasure with the public

“We are grateful for our donors and supporters that help us keep VNMP open through the uncertainty of government shutdowns.”

VNMP is the most visited tourist attraction in Mississippi. More than half a million visitors a year travel from all over the nation and world to visit VNMP and are vital to the local and regional economy. The latest Economic Impact Study released from the National Park Service shows that for every one dollar spent on basic operations at VNMP, the economic impact on the region is $10.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.