The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

June 24, 2013

Shaped by history, Gettysburg celebrates milestone

(Continued)

College President Janet Morgan Riggs said its history is becoming a bigger presence on campus. Students can now minor in Civil War-era studies, the college runs a Civil War institute that attracts scholars each summer and, for the past 11 years, freshmen have been brought to the national cemetery to hear President Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" and other speakers.

"For a period of time, we did not embrace this historical context," Riggs said. "I don't know if there was a fear we'd be seen as a Civil War college, but over the last couple decades we have certainly embraced it."

These days, Gettysburg can feel a bit like an open-air museum, with people walking its streets in period garb. One reason for the lost-in-time feel is the park itself, which surrounds the town and chokes off much of what would certainly be miles of suburban development. A strip of development runs eastward on Route 30, but anyone hoping to build on land that can be seen from the park can run into preservation regulations.

The park offers locals the use of some 30 miles of bucolic roadways and vast open spaces as well as a constant string of cultural events, both on and off park property. About 400 such events are scheduled for June 28 through July 7.

The stream of visitors can put a crush on police, sanitation, road maintenance and emergency services.

The Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates visitors spent $605 million in 2011, generating $115 million in tax revenues and supporting 7,500 jobs.

"Most of the tourist-related jobs are lower-paying," Phiel said. "They aren't necessarily career-type situations."

Tourism is the region's top industry, rivaled in size only by the fruit orchards that were established after World War I. Many of its residents commute to nearby towns for work, and retirees have moved in, drawn by its rural nature or a love of the Civil War.

As retirees move into the area from Baltimore and Washington, Waybright worries about the younger generation. Many county schools have experienced declining enrollment over the past five years, and half of his 17 grandchildren "headed to the big city" to find careers.

"We're now over 100,000 (population)," Waybright said. "But it's awful, what's happening to our schools."

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