SuperTalk Mississippi

Vicksburg Military Park remains open during shutdown

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications Inc.

Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park are working to fund operations to keep the park open during the government shutdown.

Through the help of donors and partners, the tour road, the Visitor Center, the U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat and Museum, the Vicksburg National Cemetery and all restrooms will be kept open. Minimal staff to operate those sites and protect VNMP including essential interpretive rangers, maintenance staff, and law enforcement staff will facilitate the operations to ensure the shutdown has as little impact on the visitor experience as possible.

Government funding, which pays to operate the Vicksburg National Military Park, expired on Friday, December 21, 2018, at midnight. The costs associated with covering the daily staff to protect the resources, ensure the visitor experience is not affected by the shutdown, and keep the park open is approximately $2,000 per day.

“Vicksburg National Military Park represents such an important chapter of America’s story,” said Bess Averett, Executive Director of Friends of VNMP and Campaign. “We never want even one visitor to be turned away from our Park. We are fortunate to have staff at VNMP who share our passion for this historic place and its story and have worked to pioneer this opportunity to provide an option to keep VNMP open during the government shutdown.”

VNMP is the most visited tourist attraction in Mississippi. Over half a million visitors a year travel from all over the nation and world to visit VNMP and are vital to the local and regional economy. The latest Economic Impact Study released from the National Park Service shows that for every one dollar spent on basic operations at VNMP, the economic impact on the region is $10.

“VNMP will remain open,” Averett said. “As the official Friends Group for the Park, we work together all year on important projects and events for VNMP. We can think of no higher priority project we can take on than keeping the gates and museums open and sharing this amazing treasure with the public. We are grateful for our donors and supporters that help us keep VNMP open through the uncertainty of government shutdowns.”

While the VNMP will remain open, park officials announced that all campgrounds in the park will be closed effective noon on January 2nd, 2019 saying that the park is being forced to take the action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity. In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource have become a problem.

Indian Cove and Black Rock campgrounds will be open for day-use only, sunrise to sunset. Additional closures include Lost Horse Mine Road due to illegal activity and Rattlesnake Canyon in order to reduce the number of search and rescue events for rangers already spread thin due to the government shutdown. Keys View Road is also closed, effective immediately.

“I want to extend a sincere thanks to local businesses, volunteer groups, and tribal members who have done their best to assist in picking up litter and helping maintain campgrounds,” said Superintendent David Smith. “This is no reflection on their efforts and the park is very fortunate to have a community that exhibits the kind of care and concern witnessed over the last week.”

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