For two weeks this summer Gettysburg will welcome about 20,000 to 30,000 visitors each day, which could put a serious strain on resources for a town built for a population of under 8,000. Borough officials have expressed fear that such an influx of tourists could mean traffic jams, crowds, and an unhappy experience for much-sought-after visitors.
“If people are unhappy because they are stuck in a traffic gridlock or have nowhere to use the bathroom, then we have lost the opportunity to bring them back again in 2015 or 2016,” said Gettysburg Borough Council member John Butterfield at a meeting Monday evening.
With the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg less than six months away, local businesses, municipalities, and organizations are scrambling to ensure that the anticipated 4 million tourists who will come to Gettysburg in 2013 are kept happy. In keeping with this goal, the borough has asked state Reps. Will Tallman, R-Reading Township, and Dan Moul, R-Conewago Township, and state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Chambersburg, for their help in acquiring a $254,236 grant from the state.
“I think that we will be successful,” said Moul from his office in Harrisburg. “There is not one person here who does not respect and understand the importance of the battle to Pennsylvania.”
If the local legislators are successful, the funding is slated to pay for portable restrooms, additional seating areas, police overtime, trash clean-up, a media campaign, and event-planning support from Main Street Gettysburg.
“Main Street Gettysburg has invested a lot of time in supporting this effort,” said Main Street Gettysburg president Deb Adamik. “It has maxed all of us out.”
For the past two years, Main Street Gettysburg has spearheaded the Civil War 150th steering committee, a consortium of community leaders including representatives from the National Park Service, Gettysburg College, the Gettysburg Borough Council, the Seminary Ridge Museum and the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“We have been the facilitator for getting all these folks together and coordinating their various events,” Adamik said. “The battle has had four other commemorations in the past and each one had a national or state commission of high-level influential people to raise money and organize. We haven’t had that luxury.”
To make up for all of the time and money spent by Main Street Gettysburg throughout the planning process, the organization is asking for $55,000 as part of the funding request made by the borough. The borough also expects to end up spending a significant amount of money on the commemoration, including $40,723 on extra trash collection and clean-up alone.
“The borough is going to have a significant cost impact,” Tallman said, “and we are going to do whatever we can to alleviate that.”
In conjunction with the borough’s request, the York-Adams Transportation Authority is asking for $80,000 to run a shuttle service from parking lots outside of town to the battlefield and the downtown business district.
Parking within the downtown area is limited, so a shuttle service would allow visitors to easily spend time at Gettysburg restaurants and shops that are eager for the extra business, borough council members said. Together with the borough’s request, this amounts to a total $334,236 grant from the state.
“On the scheme of things, compared with the state’s $27.7 million budget, this amount is small,” Moul said, which he said should make searching for funding easier, although not necessarily easy.
The state budget for fiscal year 2012-13, which ends on June 30, is already in place, so no new funding for Gettysburg can’t be allotted until the 2013-14 budget is passed and goes into effect on July 1. Unfortunately, the 150th commemoration will already be under way by then, which means that if the state decides to issue a grant, the borough will have to take out a loan first and wait for a reimbursement, Moul said.
Moul is also looking at funding that might be left over from this year’s state tourism budget, which could be given to the borough before the commemoration. Although this will also be difficult, Moul said, because this year’s budget is extremely tight.
Despite the difficulties, Moul, Tallman, and Alloway have all made securing the funding a priority and have said that it is a realistic goal. Main Street Gettysburg is also working to elicit funding from donations and corporate sponsorships.
“I feel this is important,” Alloway said. “Although the 150th is only this year, there will be long-term ramifications for the future of Gettysburg.” ___