City officials thanked for assistance

Published 7:05 pm Monday, February 4, 2019

Representatives from the Vicksburg National Military Park and the Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign addressed the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday to say “thank you” for its support during the federal shutdown.

The park remained open to visitors during the 35-day federal government shutdown with private donations provided through the Friends and money provided by the city. The money provided funding to keep the park’s visitor center, tour road and the Cairo Museum open during the shutdown.

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The board Jan. 2 approved a resolution to match the contributions from the Friends up to $2,000 per day. Warren County sheriff’s deputies assisted park rangers with patrols in the park.

The efforts of the Friends, city and county received national exposure.

“Almost 400 national parks were closed (during the shutdown), and during those times there were, in some areas, fairly severe damage,” Vicksburg National Military Park Superintendent Bill Justice said.

“Something extraordinary happened in Vicksburg, thanks to the Friends, the city and county, and all of the donors, the community came together to fund and keep open the park visitor center, USS Cairo Museum and tour road the visitors usually use.”

Friends executive director Bess Averett said the cost to keep the park open during the shutdown was more than $53,000, with $22,000 of that coming from the city. She said the Friends also received donations from across the country, adding that based on donations that included an address, “They came from 90 donors in 14 states.”

Averett also listed the organizations and businesses that contributed to keep the park open and volunteers who cleaned the park after storms hit in December and January.

She said a check of park attendance during the shutdown period indicated about 19,045 people visited the park during the 35-day period. During the same period in 2018, she said, 21,201 people visited the park.

She returned a $5,648 check she received from the city the day before the shutdown ended.

“Because we had to keep three days in advance in our account, we know there will be a little bit more return, and once we have those final numbers, I’ll return that check to the city as well.”

Justice said there were only 40 national parks open during the shutdown, and Vicksburg was the only battlefield park, with one exception, open and funded by the community.

The exception, he said, was the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

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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