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PRESERVING THE LAND & THE STORIES page 2
PRESERVING THE LAND, PRESERVING THE STORIES:

 The Civil War Preservation Trust bought Slaughter Pen Farm, named for the bloody fighting there during the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Rebecca Sell/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 12/9/2012

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Battlefields are a national treasure, handed down from one generation to the next, to which no monetary value could ever be assigned. They are also viewed simply as land, as a continuing stream of cash. Acreage out of circulation as a preserved battlefield does indeed cost something in lost taxes and regional gross product, but it also contributes to the economy of the community.

More than a thousand jobs in this region are supported by tourism dollars and National Park Service expenditures, with the overall impact of the national military park on our area's economy being nearly $50 million annually. Our local national military park is the single largest tourist magnet in the Fredericksburg area, with 35 percent of tourists giving Civil War history as their primary reason for visiting the area.

Statewide, nearly 75 percent of first-time visitors and more than a third of all visitors to Virginia are historic preservation visitors, with 25 percent of all Virginia visitors stopping at Civil War sites. These visitors, on average, go to twice as many places as do other tourists, stay longer than do other visitors, and spend more than two times the money of other visitors.

Preservation of these battlefields and landmarks brings visitors to our community and their dollars into our economy, proving themselves a reliable, cost-effective alternative to the large outlays of tax dollars for roads, utilities, and public services demanded by residential, commercial, and industrial development. And just think: No new battlefield sites have been created since 1865. Once one is destroyed it can never be resurrected.

Ask visitors what they like about America and they will often say, "National parks, open spaces, wilderness areas." We humans have an innate desire for open space, for areas of green, of quiet, of peacefulness. This need is addressed by preserving battlefields. When you next visit one, close your eyes and listen to the silence. That's going to become more precious as the years go by.

TEACHING TOOLS


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PRESERVING THE LAND & THE STORIES

Michael Stevens is a local dermatologist and president of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust. This column is excerpted from a speech he gave about preservation.