Battlefield boosts economy

July 11, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

Antietam National Battlefield pumped at least $4.9 million into the economies of Washington and Frederick counties last year, Superintendent John Howard said.

According to a November economic impact study, the battlefield's 300,000 visitors spent that much money the previous year on motels, restaurants and shopping, Howard said.

The National Park Service contracted with the University of Michigan to develop a model for evaluating all of its parks.

Howard said he entered information about the number of visitors and the park's annual budget into a computer model that generated the statistics.


The model estimated there are 350 jobs in the community that would not exist if not for the battlefield. That does not include jobs at the park, he said.

The battlefield also contributes an estimated $1.1 million to the tax base, according to the report, he said.

Howard said he entered the numbers conservatively. For each of the 300,000 people who paid to visit the battlefield during the last fiscal year, nearly as many probably stopped by uncounted, he said.

Washington County's top tourism official said he thinks the $4.9 million number is low.

According to travel industry statistics from 1999, the most recent year available, the economic impact of all types of tourism in Washington County was $152 million, said Ben Hart, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Much of the county's tourism is related to the Civil War. In a sense, Antietam is to Hagerstown what Disney is to Orlando, Fla.

"In our case, the draw to Washington County really is, or has been in the past, Antietam Battlefield," Hart said.

That appeal has only gotten stronger since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hart said.

"You hate to say it, but the truth is that really did help us," Hart said.

Attendance at the battlefield, especially by school groups, has increased, Howard said.

Students who would have taken trips to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore changed their plans because of security concerns.

Last fall, the battlefield saw a 45 percent increase in visits by school groups, and this past spring, school group visits were up by 33 percent, Howard said.

He expects the trend to continue this fall to coincide with the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

The Herald-Mail Articles