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Franklin County starting its own visitors bureau

December 30, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Having previously announced its intention to withdraw from the Hershey-Capital Region Visitors Bureau by the end of this year, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners Thursday passed resolutions to create its own tourist promotion agency.

The board approved the creation of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau and designated it as the county's official tourist promotion agency. The county will now begin looking for 15 people to serve on the bureau's advisory board.

The board will consist of five representatives from the hospitality and entertainment industry in the county, five from area chambers of commerce and five at-large members, said G. Warren Elliott, chairman of the board of commissioners.

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Franklin County has been a member of the Hershey-Capital Region Visitors Bureau for several years, contributing 40 percent of the money it collected from its 3 percent hotel tax to the agency, which promotes tourism in Southcentral Pennsylvania, according to County Planning Director Phil Tarquino.

Tarquino said the hotel tax, collected since 2002, generates about $400,000 a year. The 60 percent the county retained from the first year had been disbursed to local governments and organizations for tourism-related activities in the county, he said.

During the past two years, however, most of the money has been retained by the county and Tarquino said there is about $500,000 set aside for tourism.

The county has disbursed some funds, including $37,000 this year to the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce to develop and promote a Civil War "Discovery Weekend" scheduled for Feb. 3-5, which coincides with Chambersburg's annual IceFest.

Thursday, the board authorized another $27,000 for the project, which Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Paul Cullinane said will be more than a one-time event. He said the plan is to build on a state initiative called "Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: Prelude to Gettysburg," which calls for promoting historic tourism projects in seven "gateway" communities.

Cullinane said he told state tourism officials the project should entail more than Chambersburg and the gateway community here has been designated Chambersburg-Franklin County.

Local historians Ted Alexander of Greencastle, Pa., and Tim Rockwell of Mercersburg, Pa., researched Civil War events in this area and developed stories to highlight themes including Battlegrounds and Troop Movements; Daily Life; Experiences of Women and Children; and African-American Contributions to Pennsylvania's Defense.

For example, Cullinane said 88 black veterans of the Civil War are buried in Mercersburg's Zion Union Cemetery. For Battlegrounds and Troop Movements, he said there is the little-known July 4, 1863, battle at Monterey Pass near Waynesboro, Pa.

Cullinane said the Civil War Trails project will include interpretive signs at the sites and promotion of shopping, recreation, lodging, dining and touring opportunities. The goal is to attract tourists throughout the year to explore the county's history, he said.

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