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|Posted: Mon Sep 5th, 2005 02:41 pm||
Civil War tourism down 40 percent
9/4/2005 8:48:46 AM
BY EMILY LE COZ
TUPELO - Civil War buffs this summer avoided one of the nation's top heritage tourism draws, fueling a steady decline in visitors there since the early 1990s.
Shiloh National Military Park in Hardin County, Tenn., has recorded a 40 percent attendance drop in the past 16 years and this summer continued that trend, said Chief Ranger Stacy Allen.
From its of peak of about 148,000 visitors annually in the early 1990s, attendance at Shiloh's visitors center dropped to about 85,000 five years ago and down to 67,000 this past year.
The story was the same at Shiloh's sister site in Corinth, where attendance at the new Civil War Interpretive Center fell below expectations for its first year, which ended in July.
Rangers had hoped to see about 50 percent the traffic that Shiloh gets, but Corinth's first year ended with only 40 percent Shiloh's traffic - a total of 26,300 visitors.
"We didn't meet our goal, but it was reasonable since still we're getting ourselves known as a destination for heritage tourism there," Allen said. "Uncle Sam doesn't let us spend money on advertising ourselves."
Tourism to national parks has long had its peaks and valleys, but Allen said the recent rise in gas prices has kept Shiloh in the valley. That's especially true, he said, of the declining school field trips that traditionally buoy Shiloh's numbers.
"School visits have dropped dramatically over last few years," he said. "I've got news for you - that's directly attributed to their ability to pay for trips."
Nationwide, attendance at both national parks and other attractions has slipped as gas prices continue to rise. Allen expects the situation will reverse itself as families learn to budget for the higher costs of fuel.
"Like I said, there are peaks and valleys. We're in a valley right now," Allen said. "We assume it's going to turn around. When we can't say."