National Park Service Releases 2007 Visitation Statistics
National Park Service Releases 2007 Visitation Statistics
Antietam National Battlefield Park and Catoctin Mountain Park Report Increases in Visitation
Washington County Contains All or Part of Five National Parks
(Hagerstown, MD)- The National Park Service (NPS) recently released its visitation statistics for 2007. Service-wide, 360 reporting units in the National Park system experienced an average increase in visitation of 1.1 percent.
However, two local parks, Antietam National Battlefield and Catoctin Mountain Park, reported a much more significant increase in visitation.
Antietam National Battlefield
Visitors who stopped in at Antietam's Visitor Center, and paid the park's entry fee, numbered 282,676 in 2006. In 2007 there were 337,569 visitors, an increase of 19.4 percent, or nearly 55,000 more people.
The park typically attracts more visitors during years, which are major anniversary years, including the most recent 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. September 2007 marked the 145th anniversary of the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. A wide variety of special programs were held at the battlefield to commemorate the anniversary, the town of Sharpsburg observed Heritage Day, the September Storm reenactment was held nearby in Boonsboro, and the South Mountain Battlefield State Park held special programs.
"The 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam was a huge success," said park superintendent John Howard. "One of the reasons for our increase in visitation was the partnership that exists between the battlefield, the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area."
According to National Park Service figures, from September 8th through September 23rd, the total visitation to the battlefield - during a two-week stretch - was 98,297 visitors. "This is a huge number of visitors to the park," according to Tom Riford the president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "During 2007, the CVB spent a much larger percentage of its advertising budget promoting the events surrounding the anniversaries, and also produced marketing collateral pieces for the reenactment. The CVB also wrote articles and disseminated several media releases, which helped generate positive publicity for the park."
Riford said that hotels, campgrounds, and B&B's saw increases in occupancy during that time period, as did retail and restaurant businesses. "Because of increased awareness about Antietam, we also have seen the residual effect of higher occupancy, well after the actual anniversary."
Antietam is one of Maryland's top attractions. According to a 2005 Civil War Preservation Trust report, "The Antietam National Battlefield Park creates more than $10 million of local economic impact annually. The report said that 309 jobs are created or maintained independent of the battlefield - every 702 tourists support one full-time or full-time equivalent job. If the count for all park visitors was used, the job figure is nearly 500," Riford said.
Also, visitors to the park produce tax revenues. "The 2005 report said that visitors generate about $1,413,000 annually in local and state taxes. This is a non-resident tax revenue contributed locally each and every year, which helps offset the growing cost of residential services here in Washington County," Riford said.
The staff at Antietam is already anticipating the next big battle anniversary. "We are looking forward to the 150th Anniversary in 2012," Superintendent Howard said.
Including visitors center attendance, Howard also mentioned that the park had over 700,000 total visitors during 2007, "We use car counting and other visitation metrics which show that a large percentage of people don't actually stop in the visitors center, but enjoy driving around on their own, hiking the trails, riding their bikes, attending events, and enjoying this beautiful park."
Catoctin Mountain Park
According to NPS statistics, Catoctin Mountain Park, which is partially located in the northeast corner of Washington County, had an increase of 12.2-percent, from 526,898 in 2006 to 591,191 in 2007 (or an increase of 64,293 visitors). Most of the park is located in neighboring Frederick County, and surrounds forest land and Camp David.
C&O Canal National Historical Park
The C&O Canal National Historical Park experienced a slight decrease in visitation for 2007. The C&O Canal's visitation went down by 7.5 percent (to 2.8-million visitors in 2007). "The C&O Canal National Historical Park is Maryland's largest and most visited national park," said Tom Riford, "Having nearly 3-million visitors park-wide, and about 600,000 C&O Canal visitors in Washington County, has a tremendous economic impact." About 43-percent of the park is located in Washington County, and the park's entire length is 184-5-miles.
Riford said that visits to the C&O Canal National Historical Park is anticipated to increase in 2008, "There is a national exhibit that is opening in Williamsport this spring which will attract a lot of new visitors. In the years ahead as the park moves forward with repairing the break in the Towpath at Big Slackwater, and making improvements in Williamsport to several historical structures, visitation will greatly increase."
The numbers of "through riders" have reportedly increased who are traveling on the newly completed Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, and connecting to the C&O Canal and riding to Washington, DC. The completion of this project happened in 2007.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
With slightly more than 800 acres located in Washington County, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park had a 6.6 percent decrease in visitation (to almost 250,000 visitors in 2007).
"Park visitation fluctuates from year to year based on many factors," said Marsha Wassel, a spokeswoman with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. "We do expect a substantial increase in visitation as we approach 2009 and the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of John Brown's Raid and the Civil War."
Planning has already begun for events and activities surrounding the 150th Anniversary of John Brown's Raid. The 1859 attack on Harpers Ferry is said to be the spark that began the Civil War.
"John Brown spent a lot of time in Washington County, leading up to the October 1859 raid. He assembled his 'army' at the Kennedy Farm in Washington County, and also visited Hagerstown," said Tom Riford. "Visitors to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park not only learn about John Brown's 1859 Raid, but also about the various Civil War Battles that happened in and around Harpers Ferry, including when Confederate forces took the town in September 1862."
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is also a National Park Service unit, and about 43 miles of the trail are located along Washington County's eastern border. About 4-million total visitors enjoyed the trail in 2007. The park unit is headquartered in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Part of the nation's oldest, largest, and most prestigious ultra-marathon takes place annually on part of the Washington County section of the Appalachian Trail. The JFK 50-Mile has been completed by US Senators, rock stars, top international runners, and also every branch of the military sends teams to compete in the annual event (the 46th annual JFK is set for November 2008).
NPS Reports Increased Visitation Nationwide
More than 275 million visits were recorded in America's national park system in 2007, an increase of three million visits from the previous year. The National Park Service cares for national parks, a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural and recreational sites across the nation. It preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. For more information about the National Park Service visit www.nps.gov.
The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help attract visitors to Hagerstown and Washington County. The CVB helps to create growth for the local economy by promoting, developing and expanding the local visitor industry. For more information about the CVB go to www.marylandmemories.com.