The federal government has been in partial shutdown for 13 days, but The Vicksburg National Military Park is still open. MPB’s Alexandra Watts reports how and why the park has not closed its doors.
Most national parks have shut down along with the government, but visitors can still go to Vicksburg National Military Park thanks to a non-profit, Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign.
The park usually has around 35 to 40 people working, but the funds allow about seven people to help maintain the park according to the group’s executive director, Bess Averett.
“Our figure that we have to fund basic operations is $2000 dollars a day,” she said. “And what that allows for is to [an[ keep interpretive ranger, law enforcement rangers and maintenance staff, so that the tour road is open. All the museums are opened. The visitor center is open. Restrooms are opened and cleaned. Garbage is taken out. A lot of the other problems national parks are dealing with, we won’t have to deal with here.”
Tourism brought in around $22 million dollars to Vicksburg in 2017, and over 500,000 people visit the park per year.
Vicksburg’s mayor, George Flaggs Jr., said every dollar spent has a ten dollar return and that the park is vital to the local economy.
“When you start talking about coming to the casinos, when you start talking about coming to the convenient stores…mom and pop stores. We’re talking about the Walmart. It’s very vital to us. We depend on that park to make certain that people see Vicksburg and see that Vicksburg is a tourist destiny.”
Mayor Flaggs says the city will match funds given to the non-profit. Averett says with donations from the city and others, the park can comfortably stay open for a couple more weeks.