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Saving battlefields pays
Civil War land trust’s new report details economic benefits for neighboring localities.

Date published: 5/17/2005


Jim and Becky Buss of Birch Run, Mich., are fairly typical of the thousands of tourists who stop by the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center.

They’re interested in Civil War history and pack in several sites during the short time they’re here.

“We’re on a tour of the East Coast,” Jim Buss said yesterday as the couple prepared to drive their blue SUV to Spotsylvania battlefield sites.

And like the 80,000 visitors who stopped by the visitors center last year, they spent money at area bookstores, gas stations, restaurants and hotels.

“I figure we spend $100 to $150 a day here,” said Jim Buss. The middle-age couple’s final destination is North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

According to the Civil War Preservation Trust, the economic benefit from Civil War tourism is substantial. And now, for the first time, the group details just how much it brings in. The new report, “Blue, Gray and Green,” examines from where and what types of visitors come here.

The study, by an independent research firm, surveyed tourists, documented what they spent and calculated how their visits affected tax revenues, job growth and retail sales in surrounding communities.

“Civil War battlefields are not just national treasures,” said CWPT President James Lighthizer. “Each one is also a treasure trove of benefits for its neighboring community.”

The point, he went on to say, is that now’s the time for preservation.

“Millions of Americans are willing to spend their money to visit these historic shrines—as long as local officials have the wisdom not to pave them over.”

That’s been an ongoing battle in the Fredericksburg area, with one high-profile success recently. More than 100 acres of the Chancellorsville battlefield adjoining Fredericksburg & Spotsyvlania National Military Park was purchased by the CWPT last year for preservation. The deal was a cooperative effort involving the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, Tricord Homes and the preservation group.

Fredericksburg-area battlefields were also featured prominently in an article in National Geographic’s April issue about the nation’s disappearing Civil War sites.

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