Tag Archives: National Park Service

Chancellorsville 150: Day One field report, live blogging

Yesterday’s Chancellorsville 150 First Day events kicked off the sesquicentennial observances in good order.  Took me a few minutes to “knock the rust” off my on the field tweeting practices.  But the NPS staff at Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania picked up as if there had been no long winter break… and the crowds likewise seemed to have followed en-mass from the December activities.  A half-hour before the event kickoff, we had standing-room-only at the event tent.

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Several important points from the introductory remarks from historian John Hennessy, park superintendent Russel Smith, and Civil War Trust president Jim Lighthizer.  But the best, in my opinion, was Mr. Smith’s point comparing the centennial to the sesquicentennial.  We have a good reason to celebrate at the 150th – the preservation of the fields where we stood to remember the events.

And I would add that our form of “celebration” in the sesquicentennial tends to take the form of devoted interpretive tours.

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If that’s our legacy from the 150th – our focus on factual, detailed, and timely interpretive tours to achieve the “experience” – then I’d say we are doing right.

The day’s activities closed with a recreation of the Lee-Jackson bivouac. Hennessy along with fellow park historians Frank O’Reilly and Greg Mertz enlightened the remarkably large crowd on the details surrounding the last meetings of Generals Lee and Jackson.  John Hennessy posted a wide view of the crowd on his twitter feed:

Macro and micro level treatment of the meeting, I would add.  Such is, again, what the sesquicentennial crowd wants to hear – put us at the place, at 150 years from the time, and talk about what happened.  No need for the romantic fluff.  We can set aside the baggage left over from other generations.  Take us right down to the fireside and share the story.

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To that point, Hennessy tweeted earlier on May 1 that while some complained Fredericksburg 150 was “too much Yankee,” people might well complain that Chancellorsville 150 will be “too much Lee-Jackson.”  He added, “Fact is: moving parts get the attention.”  And tonight’s events running into the evening promise to continue following the course of the battle with a focus on those two leading figures.

As I left yesterday evening, the sun had set and I watched civil twilight turn to nautical twilight. Photos do not do justice to the “painted sky” yesterday evening.

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Last year I was blessed with some great sunrises and sunsets associated with sesquicentennial events.  I hope this is a sign that trend will continue.  The photo was taken from the “Flank Attack” tour stop west of the visitor center.  The park’s tour events pick up there this afternoon and we’ll follow Jackson’s attack and his mortal wounding.

If the cellular connection cooperates, I’ll add some photos from the field here later.  Please check back and follow on twitter (https://twitter.com/caswain01).

Cool Springs Battlefield preservation: A win all around

From the Civil War Trust:

Commonwealth of Virginia, Civil War Trust and Shenandoah University Announce Public-Private Partnership to Protect Cool Spring Battlefield

Former golf course will become outdoor classroom offering university students hands-on experience in outdoor leadership and education, history and environmental studies; public will retain access to scenic property

(Clarke County, Va.) – This morning, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech joined representatives of the Civil War Trust and Shenandoah University to celebrate the successful completion of a public-private partnership to permanently protect 195 acres along the Shenandoah River that played a crucial role in the July 18, 1864, Battle of Cool Spring.” The event was part of the Commonwealth’s celebration of Earth Week 2013 and highlighted the project’s unique intersection of environmental benefit, educational opportunity and economic growth potential.

“I can think of no better way to honor the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring the protection and care of our state’s natural resources this Earth Week than by celebrating our partnership to conserve this site,” said Secretary Domenech. “With its sweeping views of the Virginia countryside, Shenandoah River access and historic pedigree, this land will be appreciated and enjoyed for generations to come.”

Virginia Director of Historic Resources Kathleen Kilpatrick agreed, adding, “Through this preservation partnership, the Cool Spring Battlefield will be far more than a passive historic site — this land is poised to become a dynamic, multi-faceted learning environment that will enhance educational opportunities in a variety of fields.” (Full Story Here)

And how did this all come together?

This portion of the Cool Springs Battlefield was part of the Virginia National Country Club (the other side of the battlefield, where some of the most significant fighting took place, is part of the Holy Cross Abby). When the country club fell into bankruptcy, the Trust and other parties first proposed adding the facility to the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NVRPA)system. The plan dropped when the Clarke County Board of Supervisors voted down the option to join NVRPA in March of last year. At the time, the supervisors left open other options to preserve the portion of the battlefield in question. I hoped that was the opening needed to follow through with another preservation plan.

Indeed, it was. In September, the Trust announced that Cool Springs was among seven battlefields benefiting from a generous state grant. Funding remained incomplete, so the Trust worked their magic:

Protection of the Cool Spring site was made possible through generous, competitively awarded preservation matching grants from both the federal and state governments. The American Battlefield Protection Program, administered by the National Park Service, contributed $200,000 toward the $2 million total purchase price, while the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund — the most successful state level grant program of its kind in the nation — put forward another $800,000. Remaining funding was secured through a significant landowner donation and contributions from Trust members.

But this won’t be just some battlefield park with associated overhead costs. Instead, the battlefield, while remaining open to the public, was transferred over to Shenandoah University:

In 2012, the Civil War Trust negotiated to acquire the 195-acre former Virginia National Country Club following its bankruptcy. Recognizing the site’s unique potential as a community resource, the Trust began investigating a variety of partnership opportunities for long-term stewardship of the battlefield, before settling on what Lighthizer calls the “perfect solution” — transferring the property to Shenandoah University….

The university is currently evaluating options and developing proposals for specific programming to take place at the Cool Spring site. The property and surrounding environment has the potential to serve as an experiential learning campus for academic programs in the fields of outdoor leadership and education, environmental studies and history.

In addition, numerous possibilities are being considered to integrate the campus community as a whole through opportunities developed and implemented by Shenandoah University’s Division of Student Life. These co-curricular pieces are fundamental for enhancing a connection to the region, while promoting environmental stewardship. Furthermore, the Cool Spring site will afford local schools and the public at large with opportunities to explore the region through historical and natural interpretation.

At a minimum, this is a win for all concerned. What I do hope is this is further transformed into a greater victory with the university’s use of this property as an educational resource. Hopefully the curriculum which leverages Cool Springs will aid the development of preservation and conservation oriented planners.

Fort Pulaski is a $21m local economic benefit, but is the 150th having an impact?

From the Fort Pulaski National Monument website:

Fort Pulaski National Monument Tourism Creates $21,605,000 in Local Economic Benefit

Savannah, GA – A new National Park Service (NPS) report for 2011 shows that the 408,104 visitors to Fort Pulaski National Monument spent $21,605,000 in communities surrounding the park. This spending supported 312 jobs in the local area.

“Fort Pulaski is one of the most well-preserved historic and natural resources in the United States,” said Interim Superintendent, Terri Wales. “The story of Fort Pulaski appeals to a wide range of visitors. It is the site of Robert E. Lee’s first assignment, of John Wesley’s first sermon in the New World, of a Civil War battle at which rifled cannons first successfully breached masonry fortifications – signaling the obsolescence of such fortifications for coastal defenses. It is also the site where, in 1862, U.S. General David Hunter issued an unauthorized order to emancipate slaves in 3 states. Additionally, the National Monument contains one of the largest federally protected salt marshes in the United States.”

“Visitors from across the U.S. and around the world come here to experience the beauty and history of the park, Savannah, and Tybee Island and then spend time and money enjoying the services provided by our neighboring communities and getting to know this amazing part of the country. The National Park Service is proud to have been entrusted with the care of America’s most treasured places and delighted that the visitors we welcome generate significant contributions to the local, state, and national economy.”

The information on Fort Pulaski is part of a peer-reviewed spending analysis of national park visitors across the country conducted by Michigan State University for the National Park Service. For 2011, that report shows $13 billion of direct spending by 279 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. That visitor spending had a $30 billion impact on the entire U.S. economy and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide.

Most visitor spending supports jobs in lodging, food, and beverage service (63 percent) followed by recreation and entertainment (17 percent), other retail (11percent), transportation and fuel (7 percent) and wholesale and manufacturing (2 percent.)

To download the report, visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM and click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation, 2011. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

(Full story here)

As the article mentions, the full report for 2011 is available on the National Park Service site. The report details how the report was complied and where the numbers came from.

The news release did not mention Fort Pulaski’s figures for 2010, as a comparison. The 2010 report is on file at Money Generation Model website. The comparison in numbers of visitors is 416,292 in 2010, down to 408,404 in 2011. Visitor spending went from $20.7M in 2010, up to $21.6M in 2011. And job impacts went from 295 in 2010, down slightly to 293 in 2011.

However, 2011 was NOT the big year for Fort Pulaski with respect to the sesquicentennial. We’ll have to wait for the 2012 report to see what impact that event may have had (or likewise for Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Richmond Battlefields, Manassas (2nd), Antietam, and Fredericksburg).

But Fort Sumter did have a major sesquicentennial event during the two reporting periods. For 2010, Fort Sumter had 797,713 visitors, with spending estimates at $18.4M. For 2011, Fort Sumter’s numbers were 857,883 visitors, spending $21,6M according to the estimates.

How about Manassas, which also had a sesquicentennial event? In 2010 that Virginia park logged 612,490 visitors, spending an estimated $8,2M. In 2011 park visitors numbered 659,740, spending $9.6M.

Or a non-Civil War site with a bicentennial on the way – Fort McHenry. Visitor totals up from 611,582 to 641,254 over the two years. Spending up from $39.8M to $44.1M.

Looks like the NPS is seeing modest gains across the board at historical venues. Nor enough data to call out sesquicentenial trends. But what I still can’t figure out is how Fort Pulaski generates more visitor spending, indeed over double spending, than Manassas, even with fewer visitors. Maybe the Tybee Island beach traffic has more cash in pocket?