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Report calls military park economic asset
Enhancing tourism and recreation while protecting national park will aid area's economy, study says

 Cannon sit silently at the Chancellorsville battlefield. A new report says the park can enhance local tourism.
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Date published: 11/18/2010

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The Fredericksburg area has a unique economic asset in its midst, and ought to leverage it.

So says the National Parks Conservation Association, which issued a report yesterday on Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and its role in the local community.

The region has "great potential" to protect the park and provide better recreational opportunities for local residents, the NPCA study states.

In 10 years, Virginia projects that demand for low-impact recreation options will greatly outstrip supply in the Fredericksburg area.

"This growing demand for recreational facilities suggests ways that the region can diversify its economic base and broaden its appeal to tourists, while also making the region a better place to live," Joy Oakes, NPCA's senior Mid-Atlantic regional director, said yesterday.

The 8,000-acre national park, which includes four major Civil War battlefields, is a significant "economic engine," she said.

Park visitors spent $24 million in 2008 in Fredericksburg and the four surrounding counties, supporting 450 jobs and more than $9 million in labor income, the 12-page report states.

Nationally, every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public, another NPCA report found.

But keeping that engine pumping requires maintaining the time-traveler feeling the park's historic landscape creates for those visitors, Oakes said.

"A park's long-term economic benefits to its neighbors are directly linked to its integrity and its setting," she said.

People who travel here from out of the area will be less inclined to return if that Civil War-era atmosphere is degraded or traffic and modern distractions intrude, Oakes said: "If they come to a place that looks like anywhere else in America, why would they come back?"

Already, far fewer people visit the Chancellorsville battlefield today than 15 years ago because strip development along State Route 3 makes the 8-mile drive less attractive, according to park staff.

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