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Letter to the Editor: Former Vicksburg Military Park superintendent speaks on park road solutions

Dear Editor,

Following for your consideration are my comments on the possible realignment of the Vicksburg National Military Park’s road system.

As I’m sure you know, the park’s current road system dates back more than a century. During that time the park was subjected to bouts of severe weather similar to, and even worse than, that which caused the current damage to the park terrain. Although the park landscape has historically suffered periodic damage, it never approached the severity of what the park is facing today.

This was a result of diligent, proactive erosion control measures by the park maintenance staff based on institutional knowledge accumulated over a century. It is my opinion, based on my management of the park for over 18 years, the current weather-related damage had to have occurred as a result of the failure of the park’s erosion control structures. I have to conclude, therefore, that this damage resulted from a lack of proper maintenance by the park staff. It seems obvious that somehow the knowledge accumulated over a century of care of the park landscape was lost by the park’s maintenance staff.

I realize that these words will not be received favorably, but I can come to no other conclusion because of the extent of the damage, and this is something I feel you should be aware of as Superintendent. And this is the problem facing you and the National Park Service today: simply realigning the road system without first taking measures to educate and train the Park Maintenance staff about the need for preventative maintenance will only result in reoccurring damage.

I am aware of one particular section of the tour road on North Union, below Thayer’s approach, that is located on unstable soil. Relocating this section of road would be very difficult. In fact, in the past, it has been facetiously suggested that the only viable way to bypass this section of road would be to build a lengthy bridge.

It is my hope that this information will assist you in crafting a rescue plan for the park.

Sincerely,

William O. Nichols

Former Superintendent of Vicksburg National Military Park