Military Park has become a treasured outlet for those seeking time outdoors
With the outbreak of COVID-19 and area residents encouraged to shelter in place, many are rediscovering one of the city’s greatest treasures — the Vicksburg National Military Park.
This is evident by just looking at the number of vehicles parked in its parking lot.
While the park’s visitor’s center and the U.S.S. Cairo Museum have been closed due to the COVID-19 virus, area residents have continued to come to the park, spreading out over its acres and taking advantage of the miles of park roads as a needed getaway from home.
“It’s amazing how many people are out there,” Bess Averett said. “I can’t quantify the increase, but we are definitely seeing more families and young people out there. It has been so great during this time reaching audiences that maybe we weren’t reaching before.”
Averett serves as the executive director of Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign, the non-profit organization that partners with the park and helps advocate for funding and volunteerism.
In a letter Averette wrote to supporters, she pointed out the parallels between the VNMP then and now.
“This was hallowed ground that was set aside for the pivotal role it played in a time our country was at war and here we are at war again,” she said. “We are seeing the same fear, uncertainty, sacrifice, and valor and again this same land is playing a pivotal role for the community.”
This is why Averett said she has been supportive of keeping the park open while other recreational outlets managed by the city, county and state have been closed.
“It is helping people with their physical and mental health, and as long as people safely adhere to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and utilize it safely, we will advocate for it to remain open,” she said.
Joyce Beacham, a regular at the park who has participated for more than 30 years in the Vicksburg Run Thru History, the race held every year in the VNMP, said she was glad the park is still open.
“It gives people a chance to get out of the house physically and mentally,” Beacham said.
Vicksburg resident Frank Vollor echoed Beacham’s sentiments.
“I’m a regular out here and I think it’s good they are leaving the park open to be used,” he said. “It is very good for our health.”
Charolett Hayes, who was walking the park with her husband and daughter, said the park is what is keeping her sane.
“I would go crazy if I couldn’t come out here,” she said.
Averett said she hopes when the country gets back to normal, and all resources at the VNMP open back up, that people will remember how the park served them during this time and will consider giving back either financially or by volunteering.
“We need help to keep it going,” Averett said.
The annual spring workday at the park was canceled due to the pandemic, but Averett said she is hoping volunteers will come out when it is re-scheduled.
“Maybe the silver lining to all this is that more people will feel connected to this pivotal and important place in American history,” she said. “National Parks are a treasure and sometimes I think we take them for granted, but it has been nice to see people rediscovering our park and I hope people will fall in love with what is in our own backyard.”
Vicksburg residents will remain sheltered in place until April 27. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. announced Friday he was extending the... read more