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Volunteers vital to VNMP in Vicksburg

The reopening of the National Cemetery at the Vicksburg National Military Park is good news for our area and the park.

And its reopening is due to the effort, not only of the park’s maintenance staff, but the scores of volunteers who came out to help clean it in the wake of severe storms that hit Warren County in late December that closed the cemetery for several months.

“Our maintenance crews have spent every available minute in the National Cemetery cleaning up debris,” park Superintendent Bill Justice said. “The damage was so immense that we called upon the community to help.”

Justice said that over the last few months, more than 1,000 volunteer hours have been donated by community members, groups and AmeriCorps volunteers to help with the cleanup efforts.

“It is because of their hard work that we are finally able to reopen the cemetery,” Justice said.

But the effort to clean up the cemetery is one example of the interest residents have in the park and their willingness to help the park staff.

Hundreds of volunteers turnout for the park’s annual cleanup days to help clear brush and weeds, paint cannon carriages or paint buildings. Last year, volunteers turned out with string trimmers to trim high grass and weeds from grave markers in the cemetery.

During the federal government shutdown, residents and the city of Vicksburg contributed money to help the Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign keep the park open to visitors.

“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 during a February meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“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.”

Volunteers also helped clear the tour roads after the December storms.

The Vicksburg National Military Park has been described as Vicksburg’s crown jewel. It’s good to know the residents in Vicksburg and Warren County recognize that description and have the desire to help make it shine.

The work in the cemetery so it could reopen is only the latest example.