Flaggs: Tourism will be increasing
Published 7:30 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019
The combination of the Vicksburg National Military Park and the city’s downtown area can help make Vicksburg a more attractive destination for tourists to the area, Mayor George Flaggs said.
Speaking at the annual meeting of Main Street Vicksburg Thursday, Flaggs said the Military Park is Mississippi’s biggest tourist attraction and draws about 500,000 people per year.
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In three years, Flaggs said, Vicksburg should be able to multiply that 500,000 coming to see the park and combine it with the Champion Hill battleground site in Bolton and the state’s Grand Gulf Park in Port Gibson to bring an additional 300,000 people to the area.
“It’s on its way because of what the Friends of the Park is doing. Most of the people who go in the park spend eight hours a day in the park,” he said. “If they have to go to Champion Hill in Bolton and Port Gibson, that’s at least a day in Vicksburg.
“That’s a day to your restaurants, that’s a day to your hotels, that’s an increase in revenue by way of sales tax.”
And if he can get them to go and connect with downtown, Flaggs said, that will keep people in the area longer.
Everywhere he goes, Flaggs said, people talk about downtown Vicksburg; it’s originality, hospitality and the cordial people downtown.
“That means the 500,000 can go to 300,000 more,” he said, adding the city gets an additional 28,000 people a year coming to the city on the riverboats.
He said the proposed $10.9 million riverfront redevelopment project will enhance the city’s appeal, pointing to the planned amphitheater, pavilion on the river, a walking trail and a pedestrian walk from Washington Street to the river.
“You’ll get so when those 28,000 people come, they’ll see Vicksburg before they get here and before they dock, because the whole riverfront will be redesigned and you can see Washington Street like you’ve never seen it before,” he said.
And that means, Flaggs said, “When they come to Washington Street, they’re going to shop. They’re going to go to the National Military Park, and if we can get them to start staying overnight, I believe on the Mississippi River, Vicksburg will be the site.”
Flaggs also discussed the multi-use park at the corner of Jackson and Washington streets, adding plans are to have concerts at the park to increase foot traffic downtown.
“The most beautiful thing we ever want to see downtown, to me, is to see a young lady or a young man with a baby in a stroller walking downtown,” he said.
Another feature, he said, will be able to let people rent bicycles to ride downtown.
Flaggs also discussed plans for more activities on the city’s Fisher Ferry property, a development for the Kuhn property and the revitalization of the King community.
Addressing another potential tourist site, Flaggs said he believes an agreement with Kansas City Southern Railroad on the Old Mississippi River Bridge may be coming in the near future.
He said he talked with a vice president for KCS about the bridge, and the railroad may be agreeable to meeting and discussing a possible solution that will open the bridge’s road deck to pedestrian traffic.
In other matters, outgoing Main Street Board of Directors president Christi Kilroy said between 2016 and 2018, 193 new jobs had been created in the downtown area and $7.6 million in private money and $3.64 million in public money have been invest in downtown.