Antietam Battlefield gives local economy a $10 million annual boost

July 08, 2005|By Tom Riford

A few months ago, the CVB's monthly tourism article focused on the local economic impact of state parks upon Washington County. As explained, the impact is significant and impressive. This article focuses on the positive economic impact of Antietam National Battlefield, which is entirely in Washington County.

What DOES a national park mean for a local economy? The question was asked of the Civil War Preservation Trust, and last month that organization released the Economic Impacts Report from Civil War Battlefields. The results were notable regarding Antietam's impact on our area. The numbers of jobs, the tax revenue creation, and the dollars generated locally illustrate how important this national park is for all of us.

The study looked at 13 battlefields. The purpose of the study was to quantify the economic value associated with battlefields. Additionally, the study determined that preserving and maintaining the battlefields were economically important for local communities. The analysis, performed by an independent research firm, calculated what visitors spent, what taxes were generated, what jobs were created and maintained, and how retail sales were impacted.


The study found that Antietam National Battlefield attracted visitors who spent more than $10 million LOCALLY per year. This local economic impact, according to the study, was understated because the "official" visitor count was used (those people who actually check in at the Visitor Center and pay the entry fee, but not the visitors who and enjoy the park on their own). When people visit Antietam, the study determined a significant impact on lodging, food, shopping, and other services.

On average, Antietam supports jobs for local residents. The researchers determined that 309 jobs are created or maintained independent of the battlefield (every 702 tourists support one full-time or full-time equivalent job). If the count for all park visitors was used, the job figure is nearly 500. That's right ? having Antietam National Battlefield here in our county means about 500 people have full-time jobs.

Additionally, visitors to the park produce tax revenues. The estimation carefully tallied that visitors generate $1,413,000 annually in local and state taxes. This is a non-resident tax revenue contributed locally each and every year, which helps offset the growing cost of residential services here in Washington County.

When surveyed, visitors to Washington County indicated that 65 percent intended to visit Antietam, and that the average battlefield visitor's household income was more than $72,000. The study found that Civil War battlefield visitors tend to stay longer, one to three days more, than average tourists. This is good news, of course, for our local economy.

In discussing the study with the Director of the Antietam Partner Program of the Western Maryland Interpretive Association, Kurt Redenbo said that the study confirmed the vital economic contribution that Antietam National Battlefield makes to Washington County. Antietam also delivers many quality-of-life benefits to our local citizens, as well: scenic beauty, solitude, outdoors recreation, popular events (like the annual Salute to Independence and the annual Memorial Illumination), national publicity (like the History Channel episodes that have aired, and that are being filmed at Antietam in 2005), and ranger-led educational programs for local school students. I agree with Kurt, who said that Antietam is a "business partner" for Washington County.

The superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield, John Howard, was pleased with the study's results. He told me that not only are the numbers good from the standpoint of job creation, tax generation, and local economic impact ? but Antietam is receiving more and more positive international news. How so? Well, National Geographic Magazine just ranked Antietam as the number one National Battlefield in North America, and selected the park as 11th out of the 55 Destination National Parks examined and scored by 300 experts. The July/August issue of National Geographic Traveler said that Antietam "gets high marks for historical interpretation, management, and sense of place." The "Destination Scorecard" article also mentioned local communities that "are special in their preservation efforts" (including Sharpsburg and Boonsboro). The Destination Scorecard ranked nearby Gettysburg National Military Park 23rd.

The praise heaped upon Antietam reflects positively on the hard work of the volunteers and professional staff at the park. This sort of news coverage by National Geographic is something that is unparalleled ... if the CVB had to buy that sort of positive "advertising" to help attract visitors to come to Washington County...well, I don't think we could afford it! So, our hats are off to Superintendent Howard, and the folks at Antietam!

There are a lot of things happening at Antietam National Battlefield. The newsletter that Antietam Partners put out lists many activities and volunteer opportunities. Also, the new museum that opened recently made national news. The Pry House Field Hospital Museum is a wonderful partnership between the National Park Service and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine ? and definitely worth a visit if you haven't been there yet!

Tom Riford is president and chief executive officer 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.

The Herald-Mail Articles