SURRATT: Levee Street improvements, bike path enhance allure to tourists
Published 4:00 am Friday, August 20, 2021
Improvements to Levee Street and bicycle trails: those two topics were on Monday’s agenda for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
While they may seem frivolous in the grand scheme of things, both projects are necessary if our city is to develop, and I can anticipate the questions “What?” and “Why?” and a few well-placed expletives that cannot be mentioned in this column.
Here’s the answer, which I hope meets with skeptics’ approval. It probably won’t, but I’ll give it a try anyway.
It doesn’t take long for someone to live here and realize our greatest asset is the Mississippi River and Vicksburg’s history and culture, and tourism is our largest industry. People come here from other states and European countries to visit our museums, tour the Vicksburg National Military Park and learn about our city’s link with The Blues.
Tour boats stop in the city so passengers can take in the museums to see where Coca-Cola was first bottled, learn about the city’s heritage and its people and learn about the Siege of Vicksburg. Cars and buses bring people from across the country to spend time doing the same thing as our visitors from the boats and in most cases, stay longer because they don’t have to worry about a departure time.
Some of our visitors are here because their children are involved with a baseball or softball tournament at Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi and make the side trips to the Military Park and the Museums as a diversion from being at the ballpark.
Improvements to Levee Street, like new and refurbished sidewalks, a new parking area for the Old Depot Museum, improved lighting and spaces for bus parking are necessary features, not just for the boat passengers but for tourists wanting to get a closer look at the water and tour the depot.
The bicycle trails represent a whole new field for the city. While the city has several historic walking trails around town, there are presently no provisions for someone to safely ride a bicycle on city streets — and if there is one unknown fact about Vicksburg, it’s the city has a lot of cycling enthusiasts. If you think that sounds far-fetched, come out for the start of the next Bricks and Spokes ride in the fall and see how many people are lined up to go.
The city is made for cycling. Traffic on the inner-city streets is light and the city’s hills make it a challenging ride. The Military Park’s tour roads are marked off for bicycles and are devoid of serious traffic issues. The scenery in the park is beautiful and, except for the occasional ordnance demonstrations, it’s peaceful and there are opportunities to stop and enjoy the work on display in what has been called “the art park of the world.”
Vicksburg has a proud history that is diverse and beautiful and we need to show it off to the world. But to do that, we must make our city more tourist-friendly and that means making improvements to areas like Levee Street and installing bike paths so we can offer visitors a greater experience than driving around town to see the sights.