Riverfront development will not happen overnight, but desperately needed

Published 2:30 pm Wednesday, November 13, 2019

In my time covering the Board of Mayor and Aldermen over the past few years, I listened intently and recorded Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s efforts and discussions about improving the city’s riverfront.

I’ve also been reading about the recent trip to Little Rock, Ark., and the city’s delegation’s meetings, discussions and tours of that city and its riverfront, and the mayor’s desire to visit other cities to see what they do with their riverfronts.

Growing up in Baton Rouge, another river city on the Mississippi, I’ve always been fascinated by the river, and recall many family trips as a boy to walk up the levee, ride the ferry across to Port Allen and watch the ships and barges move along that watery highway. Watching the Delta Queen land in Baton Rouge was always a treat.

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At one point, Baton Rouge was like Vicksburg, because the riverfront was not developed as a tourist attraction. The levee was there, but there were also a lot of old, vacated buildings; the area was not an inducement to visit the riverfront if you were from out of town.

That all changed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the city began a building boom along the riverfront to bring people downtown. There are casinos downtown, a museum that gives visitors a chance to look at the river’s changing course over the years, the River Center for concerts, the destroyer USS Kidd, and a walking path and observation deck on the levee to get a better view of the river.

When I moved here with my family, we were upset not to find an observation deck downtown in Vicksburg where you could go and look at the river, even if it was the Yazoo Diversion Canal we were actually observing.

True, there are great views of the river from Louisiana Circle and Naval Circle along Washington Street, but it just doesn’t give you an intimacy with the river like having a place where you can safely go to the edge by yourself, look out over the bends in the river and have some quiet time.

That situation will change when the city’s plans for the riverfront start to materialize. It’s an ambitious program, with improvements to Levee Street to make it more pedestrian-friendly, a walkway over Levee Street to Washington Street, an amphitheater and docking for the riverboats when they visit. And with some luck, we might even see the Old Mississippi River Bridge opened up to pedestrian traffic.

It’s not something that will happen overnight, although I hope I’ll see it happen while I’m still living and breathing, even if I’m in a wheelchair.

We already have a headstart with the floodwall murals, the Old Depot Museum, and, although it’s not on the river, Washington Street Park, which has already been the site of several events.

Like the Vicksburg National Military Park, the Mississippi River is one of our greatest assets, and it needs to be developed, not only for tourism, but for all of us who live here to enjoy.

 

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

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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