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Our Opinion: Lull in MSP tours may signal activity

News Tribune editorial

A temporary lull in activity may signal momentum at the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) site.

The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which operates tours of the historic buildings, announced Friday that site will be closed through Thursday.

The CVB said tours have been canceled while the property owner, the state of Missouri, is “assessing some site issues in the coming days.”

Finally.

Readers of this forum are aware of our concerns regarding the deterioration of irreplaceable, historic structures at the site.

As we wrote in this space on Aug. 28: “MSP historian and (Jefferson City Historic Preservation) commission member Mark Schreiber was not engaging in hyperbole when he observed some prison structures ‘will not last another five years.’”

We wrote that opinion after the city panel decided to request expedited action on the MSP site.

At this juncture, we’re not certain where credit for action is due. Frankly, it doesn’t matter.

We commend state officials for ending inertia and assessing conditions at the redevelopment site.

We also applaud the CVB for acting on seemingly short notice to facilitate the state assessment, alert visitors who have booked tours through Thursday, offer refunds or vouchers, and apologize for the inconvenience.

The MSP site has become more than an abandoned, historic prison facility, it has become a significant tourist attraction for Jefferson City, our state capital.

A variety of tours draws thousands of visitors each year and has become profitable.

As Jefferson City officials continue to pursue creation of a conference center to accommodate visitors, they cannot afford to overlook MSP’s role as a tourist attraction.

We hope the temporary suspension of tours signals a calm before a proverbial storm of activity by state and local officials to preserve history and attract visitors.

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