Junior Ranger Days coming back to Vicksburg National Military Park

Published 11:16 am Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Junior Ranger Days program hosted by the National Park Service will return to Vicksburg National Military Park this summer.

The program is designed to expose local children ages 8 to 12 to the Vicksburg National Military Park and the National Park service. 

Over the course of six Thursdays beginning in June, a variety of fun activities will be available. The program is largely possible because of the work of Park Ranger Taylor Hegler, the educational coordinator at the military park.

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“These programs are designed to expose our local youth to the Vicksburg National Military Park and the National Park Service,” Hegler said. “The activities aim to spark their interest in park history and natural and cultural resources while showing them the value of having a national park right in their own backyard.”

Hegler highlighted the variety of subjects the children will be learning about. Participants will learn about historical aspects of the VNMP, but will also be exposed to activities focused on science and outdoor safety.

“One of our programs is ‘A Ranger for a Day Search and Rescue Program’,” Hegler said. “Where we have the children work with a law enforcement Ranger and go through mock search-and-rescue scenarios.”

There will also be a “Biology on the Battlefield” program. On a one-mile hike in the park, campers will learn plant and animal identification.

“They see different sides of the park that they wouldn’t normally see just driving on the tour road,” Hegler said.

Hegler also mentioned two field trips outside of Vicksburg are planned.

“On June 16, we’ll be taking the kids down to Natchez National Historical Park for a tour of the Melrose estate,” Hegler said. “Then on July 7, we’ll be taking them over to the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Jackson for a discussion about the Mississippi civil rights movement and their family life.”

The program is free and participants must be 8 years old by June 16. Spaces are limited, and the deadline for signup is Sunday, June 5 at midnight. Participants will be selected by a lottery system, instead of availability being first-come-first-served.

For those that are not able to attend or are not selected for a spot, the program will host some public events as well, including a chance to meet Douglas the Camel and a day focusing on the U.S.S. Cairo.

The program is run with help from the Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign nonprofit organization. Bess Averett is the Executive Director of the nonprofit.

“A lot of people know the park as a place to exercise or if they’ve done the ‘Run Through History’, or maybe they’ve gone on a field trip,” Averett said. “But we really want the kids in our regional and local area to understand the importance of this site; and why it was selected as a site of  hallowed ground.”

For more information on dates and how to sign up, please visit the Vicksburg National Military Park Facebook page.