Our community realizes importance of VNMP

Published 7:40 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019

If there is any doubt whether the residents of Warren County realize how valuable the Vicksburg National Military Park is to this area, all someone has do is review what has occurred over the past two months.

When the federal shutdown occurred, closing national parks across the country, Vicksburg was one of 40 parks that remained open and the only national battlefield park to be open, thanks to the community.

“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,” park Superintendent Bill Justice told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at the board’s Feb. 4 meeting.

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The Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign raised $53,000 in private donations from individuals in the community and interested people living in other states. The board matched those contributions up to $2,000 per day.

Money was not the only contribution. Warren County sheriff’s deputies helped patrol the park. When severe weather hit the area, causing damage in the park, volunteers showed up the next day to assist in the cleanup to keep the park’s tour road open.

Feb. 9, volunteers turned out on a cold Saturday morning to help clean the park’s National Cemetery, where many of its oaks, cedar and cypress trees were damaged by the storm. The volunteers collected limbs and branches from among the grave markers and relocated them on the side of the cemetery road for disposal.

“We asked for community help; we asked for volunteers and we had over 50 people show up to lend a helping hand,” Scott Babinowich, the park’s director of interpretation, said.

City officials and civic leaders have always referred to the Military Park as a crown jewel for the city and the key to Vicksburg’s attraction as a tourist community. The efforts of the Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign, city and county officials and volunteers from the community to help the park and its staff in time of need demonstrates how much the community loves and respects the park and its place not only in the city’s tourism efforts, but also its place in out city’s history.