Antietam called 'economic engine'

May 04, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


Beyond its history and beauty, Antietam National Battlefield is "an economic engine" for Washington County, Superintendent John Howard said Wednesday morning at a business breakfast.

"That's my goal," Howard said. "I want them here. I want them to spend their money here - because I work here."

Last year, 297,348 people visited Antietam, the site of the 1862 Civil War battle that is considered America's bloodiest in a single day, Howard said.


A 2004 study by the nonprofit Civil War Preservation Trust concluded that visitors to the battlefield spent about $10.8 million in the community - an average of about $55 per person per day. Antietam tourism creates about 300 full-time jobs, the study says.

Howard said the economic angle of his speech might surprise his audience.

"What is this? A national park superintendent talking about business?" he asked. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you succeed, I succeed."

Howard spoke at the Plaza Hotel in Halfway as part of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's monthly Eggs and Issues program.

He shared the floor with Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Of the C&O Canal National Historical Park's 184.5 miles, 78.8 miles are in Washington County, according to the National Park Service.

Brandt said the park gets 3 million visitors a year, including 700,000 in Washington County.

Its local economic impact is tough to pinpoint, but "even at the low end, it's more than $1 million to Washington County," he said, "and potentially a lot more."

Master of ceremonies Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown/Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the county might be unique in having parts of national parks - Antietam, C&O Canal, Harpers Ferry, Catoctin and the Appalachian Trail - plus two park headquarters.

Howard said it makes sense to pick Washington County as a base for Civil War sightseeing, going from Antietam to Gettysburg, Fort Frederick and Harpers Ferry.

Ron Vitkun of Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, just east of Williamsport, which sponsored the breakfast, said campground visitors often plan to stay over just one night and see two or three battlegrounds, but end up staying two or three nights because of a good experience at Antietam.

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