Leaders of Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties have hired a Virginia-based consultant to help them in their bid for state certification as a Civil War Heritage Area - a designation that would help lure tourists.
In their joint bid for certification by the Maryland Historical Trust, a process that began more than three years ago, county officials plan to promote the movement of troops through Westminster and the well-known battlefields of Washington and Frederick counties, among other sites.
Mary Means & Associates of Alexandria, Va., has been hired to identify the tri-county region's Civil War-related sites and provide suggestions about how best to protect and promote them. Union Mills Homestead in Carroll and three battlefields - Antietam in Washington County, and South Mountain and Monocacy in Frederick County - would be among the sites highlighted, tourism officials said.
"If we get state certification, the local businesses will certainly reap the benefits," said Barbara Beverungen, Carroll's tourism director. "In my mind, this is a gateway program. If we are successful in our bid for state certification, area businesses will be able to get money for renovation and other improvement projects."
The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, an appointed subcommittee of the Maryland Historical Trust, recognized the Civil War Heritage Area in July 1999, giving the tri-county effort the green light to move ahead with an application for certification.
State certification would allow businesses in the tri-county area to apply for state grants to expand operations, but would not encroach on private property rights, Beverungen said. She told the commissioners she plans to ask each of Carroll's eight towns to contribute at least $100 to the cost of the state certification process because businesses in those towns would benefit from the heritage program.
"I see this as a good investment, particularly for some of our smaller businesses," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "I think the towns - especially Sykesville and Westminster - should be happy to contribute to it."
The management report is required by state officials for certification. It will take about a year to complete, Beverungen said, and is expected to cost between $150,000 and $200,000. A $75,000 grant from the National Park Service's American Battlefields Protection Program, a $100,000 state grant and a $15,000 contribution from Antietam and Monocacy national battlefields will help cover the costs.
Any remaining costs would be divided equally among Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties. In a 2-1 vote, the Carroll commissioners agreed last week to spend up to $5,000 on the management plan, a bill Commissioner Donald I. Dell does not want to pay.
"I'm voting against this because the money is not in the budget," said Dell. He has repeatedly opposed plans to apply for state certification.
Maryland draws more than 19 million visitors annually, providing about 104,000 jobs, about 570 of which are in Carroll, said Karen Glenn, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Business and Economic Development.
In 2000, Carroll's share of Maryland's $8.2 billion tourism industry was $54 million, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, based in Washington.
Beverungen hopes to claim a larger share of those tourism dollars by offering visitors part of the area's comprehensive Civil War experience.
The Maryland Heritage Preservation and Tourism Areas Program, in its sixth year, is designed to help communities think strategically about how to protect and promote their resources.
Five areas have received state certification: Canal Place in Cumberland; Anacostia Trails Heritage Area in Prince George's County; Annapolis, London Town and South County Heritage Area in Anne Arundel County; the Baltimore City Heritage Area; and the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Inc. in Cecil and Harford counties. Seven, including the Civil War Heritage Area, have received state recognition.