Official: River key to improving tourism

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

VIDALIA — Mississippi River Parkway Commission Louisiana Chairman Brian Parsons said the key to improving tourism also draws 60 percent of North America’s migratory birds.

The Louisiana Mississippi River commission, which is made up of 10 members and designed to market the Mississippi River, focused its meeting on the Louisiana Great River Road National Scenic Byway.

“The Louisiana Great River Road has the most miles along the river of the 10 states that make up the commission,” said Parsons, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “To me, the river is an under utilized asset. We have not taken advantage of promoting it as a state, like we should.”

As a national scenic byway, the Great River Road has access to tap into approximately $40 million that the federal government is awarding to scenic byways this year.

“Any type of project that could promote or preserve the river road could apply,” Parsons said. “It could be a museum, it could be signage or many things.”

Vidalia Conference and Convention Center Marketing Director Sheri Rabb isn’t on the commission but plans to represent Louisiana at the 10-state meeting in La Crosse, Wis. Rabb said Louisiana has a lot it could bring back from the meeting.

“I think it is a huge deal to be able to share our ideas and especially bring back what I can learn,” Rabb said. “The northern states of the commission are better at getting federal funds and that is something we want to tap into.”

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, who was appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and elected to serve as the Louisiana committee chairman for the upcoming fiscal year, said Concordia Parish has a lot to benefit from the marketing of the Great River Road.

“It will enhance tourism at the riverfront and convention center,” Copeland said. “In the parish, we have Frogmore Plantation and the Delta Music Museum, it will enhance tourism at these sites as well.”

Parsons said he was impressed with the riverfront facilities of Vidalia.

“It is a prime place where you can access the river and walk along the river walk,” Parsons said. “It is also a central location for our committee — we’ll be back.”