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Festivals, parks draw visitors to county

December 04, 2004|by Tom Riford
(Page 2 of 2)

How did the South Mountain Recreational Area attract more than 390,000 visitors so far this year? Marketing and PR is a big part of it (some of which happens through the Convention and Visitors Bureau). The state helps market the parks, and the park's staff works tirelessly to help make visitors' experiences enjoyable, and the staff helps market the parks through ongoing community efforts. One thing to remember, the park staff do a great job, which means visitors to the park tell friends and acquaintances of the great time to be had in Washington County, which is one of the most compelling marketing strategies.

Some things to know about these fine state park facilities, which are all part of the South Mountain Recreation Area: There are more 185 camp sites, over 79 miles of hiking and biking trails, over 150 picnic sites, swimming opportunities, historical attractions, wide-open vistas, and a lot more. Visitors came to the parks from as far away as Canada and Sweden, yet the majority of visitors come from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. There were online reservations made this year at the parks from more than nine different countries (including Denmark, Germany, and New Zealand). The average camper stays more than two days, and lists hiking and biking as two of the most important reasons to come. The South Mountain State Battlefield Park is the only state-operated battlefield park in Maryland. The battle fought there was the first major battle of the Civil War fought in Maryland. The state has documented visitation to the battlefield from all 50 states and at least 18 countries.

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The parks of Washington County, whether national or state, city or county, offer generous amenities for our citizens, just as they offer recreational and heritage tourism opportunities for visitors. The economic impact of all of our parks is incredible ... millions of dollars flowing through the local economy, jobs, and related employment through suppliers.

We should never forget how great it is to live in a county with so many parks...and maybe the next time we see park staff members, we all should give them a big thumbs up!




Tom Riford is president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 301-791-3246. His column appears the first Thursday of every month.

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