Regional tourism effort proposed Civil War heritage shared by Frederick, Carroll, Washington

October 02, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Though no famous battles were ever fought on its gentle hills, Carroll County is hoping to tap into the lucrative heritage tourism market by joining a regional effort to become a state-certified Civil War Heritage Area, tourism officials announced yesterday.

Carroll leaders are touting a skirmish in downtown Westminster and the movement of Union troops down dusty roads leading to Gettysburg in a bid for state recognition. They are joined in the effort by Washington and Frederick counties -- the sites of well-known clashes between Confederate and Union troops.

The tri-county application is expected to be filed this fall with the Maryland Historical Trust. If the application is accepted, the counties could receive funding to preserve and promote their Civil War-related sites.

"We're requesting resources to promote the area so that we can be more competitive in the Civil War history market, especially with Virginia, which has a statewide Civil War trail," said Ben Hart, director of the Washington County Convention Bureau.

"Of the entire state, Washington County is probably the most steeped in Civil War history," Hart said. "In terms of a tourism destination, Antietam is on the level of West Virginia and Gettysburg. It's one of our major marketing tools."

Maryland continues to lag behind national averages for visitor stays and spending. The state draws more than 20 million visitors annually, generating $7.6 billion in visitor spending, about 80,000 jobs and $360 million in tax revenue, according to George Williams, director of the Maryland Office of Tourism.

"We're slightly behind the national average, but we're gaining," Williams said.

Visitors stayed in Maryland an average of 2.4 days in fiscal year 1998, up from 2.2 days the previous year. The national average for fiscal 1998 was a stay of 3.3 days.

VTC Tourism officials in Carroll, Washington and Frederick counties are hoping to boost those figures by offering visitors "a real, comprehensive, Civil War experience."

"We're trying to market our resources together," said Hart. "It's a natural tie-in because we abut each other's borders."

While Washington County lays claim to the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day in the Civil War, and Frederick County is well-known for the battlefields of South Mountain and Monocacy, Carroll's role in the Civil War consists mainly of marching -- and sleeping -- soldiers.

Some 10,000 soldiers passed by the county seat during the war. To this day, bullet holes can be seen on the wall of the old Crest-Trumbo House on Westminster's Main Street. A small sign hung on the building reads: "struck by gunfire June 29, 1863."

Horses, wagons, cannons and, of course, soldiers, passed through Carroll County on their way to major battles -- most notably, Gettysburg. In 1863, Union Gen. George G. Meade, planning for a major battle with Gen. Robert E. Lee along Big Pipe Creek, set up camp just outside Taneytown.

"The battle was planned to take place here in Carroll, in Taneytown, but of course it didn't," said Barbara Beverungen, tourism director for Carroll. "The fact remains, though, that to get to Gettysburg, the soldiers -- some 60,000 of them -- had to go through our county."

Such thinking is being encouraged by state officials, who are trying to "bring together groups of individuals and interests in Maryland that really have not gotten together before," said Bill Pencek, deputy director of the Maryland Historical Trust.

"This program is all about the state directing its resources to those areas in Maryland which are committed to economic development through protection of their heritage resources, natural resources and cultural resources," he said.

The Maryland Heritage Preservation and Tourism Areas Program, now in its second year, is designed to help communities think strategically about how to protect and promote their resources. Only one area, Canal Place in Cumberland, has been certified as a state heritage area.

"We're always looking for ways to increase tourism," said Beverungen. "This seemed like a perfect opportunity. We're looking forward to promoting the Civil War sites in a regional way."

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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