04 August 2008 by Published in: Battlefield stomping 14 comments

The following article appeared in last Friday’s edition of the Hanover Evening Sun newspaper, about how the new Gettysburg Visitor Center–of which I am not a fan–is harming the businesses that line Steinwehr Avenue:

Steinwehr business: Gettysburg visitor center move hurts strip

By ERIN JAMES
Evening Sun Reporter
Article Launched: 08/01/2008 09:36:10 AM EDT

Gettysburg business leaders are bracing for the potential negative impact of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center’s recent move away from Steinwehr Avenue by pursuing a revitalization project of the tourist hub.

In fact, that was the premise of a grant application submitted by Main Street Gettysburg to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said USDA spokeswoman Rosemarie Massa.

On Thursday, the federal agency announced it will award $70,000 in grant money to “complete a revitalization plan for the small businesses which will be negatively affected by the relocation,” according to a USDA press release.

Main Street Gettysburg executive director Deb Adamik said the visitor center’s move is not the only reason Steinwehr Avenue is in need of funding, but it is the most obvious, she said.

“You’re taking a base of thousands of visitors farther away,” she said.

Gettysburg officials, headed by Main Street, announced in June that they had secured $215,000 toward the project’s planning phase, but they didn’t specify at the time where the grants were coming from. Adamik said Thursday that the USDA’s $70,000 was included among the original total and that the sources of other grants would announce their own donations at a later time.

The potential for tourists to abandon Steinwehr Avenue as a shopping destination now that the visitor center has moved was vaguely mentioned as a reason for beginning the revitalization project when it was announced in September 2007 and when its status was updated in June. The street is due for a new look and new infrastructure, planners said.

But Massa said the gist of Main Street’s application to the USDA suggests a stronger sentiment among business leaders to address growing concerns about the visitor center’s move.

Fears about declining business on Steinwehr Avenue as a result of the visitor center’s move date back to the project’s planning phase.

At that time, the National Park Service came under attack from residents and business owners concerned the facility would lure tourists away from the downtown area and already established tourist sites along Steinwehr Avenue – just down the street from the visitor center’s original location.

In response, park Superintendent John Latschar said the Park Service was committed to creating a shuttle system to take tourists to the Eisenhower National Historic Site and into Gettysburg. And he said he believed the new facility would encourage visitors to extend their stay and spend more money around town.

Groundbreaking on the new site off of Hunt Avenue and Baltimore Pike commenced in summer 2005, and the visitor center opened April 14 of this year.

But when tourism season kicked off in May, many Steinwehr business owners wouldn’t say whether they expected the visitor center’s move to negatively impact the street. Some even said they felt the potential impact had been overestimated.

At the time, the head of the Steinwehr Avenue Business Alliance said it was “too early to tell.”

But earlier this week, Tom Crist said there’s evidence the original fears were well-founded.

In fact, he attributed this year’s slow business to two reasons – the state of the economy and the opening of the new visitor center.

“(Tourists are) not coming down Steinwehr Avenue right now,” said Crist, who owns Flex and Flanigan’s at 240 Steinwehr Ave.

Adamik said she hasn’t spoken with “too many” business owners yet about the impact so far of the visitor center’s move.

But she suspects the economy is the “overriding issue” in preventing visitors from spending money downtown.

“They just don’t have as much money as they used to as disposable income,” she said.

Contact Erin James at ejames@eveningsun.com.

This doesn’t surprise me a bit. The first time that I saw the junk store in the new VC that masquerades as a book store, I knew it was going to do substantial harm to the local businesses that have drawn on the tourist trade for years.

It’s really no wonder that a lot of the local citizenry hates the battlefield:

* The Park is not always the best neighbor, as evidenced by the harm being done to the local businesses.
* The needlessly large Harley Davidson dealership owned by local blood sucking leech David LeVan brings vast amounts of noise and debauchery to a small town that neither wants nor needs it.
* LeVan, who just doesn’t know when to quit, remains absolutely determined to bring gambling to Adams County in the form of a horse track and slot machine casino, even though his last attempt to do so went down in flames by a large margin at the polls.
* Tourist traffic causes gridlock in the town and makes it impossible to find a parking space or a table in a restaurant at times.

There’s plenty more, but you get the point. While the old VC was long past its prime and had to go, the current thing is not what anyone needed. There will be more to say about that later.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Brian S.
    Mon 04th Aug 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Eric,

    I well remember my first “bike weekend” expierence at Gettysburg. There’s apparently a parade the Saturday of bike weekend and the cops had closed down the Baltimore Pike near the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse. At least 3 bikes got tangled up/crashed a little ways up from the Pike Restaurant. One biker obviously needed a hospital because he kept fainting when he tried to stand up. It was scary stuff but his “friends” refused to let me call 911. I did anyway but they all took off with the hurt biker on the back of one of the bikes. Not to bring out the stereotype but they were all obviously drinking. This all happened before the cops could show up as there was just a volunteer stopping traffic at the gatehouse. About the same time other bikers at the Pike Restaurant figured out that traffic wasn’t passing by there so lots of wheelies started happening which included quite a bit of tire smoke. I was shocked and angered beyond belief. Big time culture shock for me too. I never thought I would see something that crazy in gburg. I can not believe the town council approved something like that. truly amazing.

    The new VC looks and feels like a mall. Horrible. Brian

  2. Brooks Simpson
    Mon 04th Aug 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Hold on there a moment. How is the NPS responsible for LeVan?

    Although I have questions about the gift shop, I had a far more favorable impression of the museum.

    But if no one’s going into the town, then there can’t be gridlock. :)

    Hey, if you don’t want to live in Gettysburg, move to Hershey. :)

  3. PHW
    Mon 04th Aug 2008 at 7:17 pm

    No offense to the shopkeeps, but the less of them selling cheap plastic trinkets, nylon Naval Jacks, and felt kepis the better. Maybe more land can be turned back to historical views.

    BTW…just bought your latest book….looking forward to reading it when it arrives!

  4. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 7:31 am

    I feel for the shop keepers to a degree, if that is what they are indeed experiencing. But in my four trips through Gettysburg since the new VC was opened, all the stores on Steinwehr seem to be doing brisk business. Those places were more or less transplanted tourist traps from Myrtle Beach anyway, IMO. What I have noticed however, is a lot of locals using the battlefield avenues as their “parkways” to get around the downtown. Much more than in the past. On several occasions this summer I’ve nearly been run down by vehicles with PA plates. Some of these folks are downright rude! I hate to say it, but perhaps speed bumps and speed traps are in the future for the Battlefield. As I’ve said before, if you visit a battlefield, you should be able to get out and walk. Sadly Gettysburg is becoming a driving tour battlefield, and a congested one at that.

  5. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 9:27 am

    Brooks,

    I didn’t elaborate well. But for the battlefield, there would have been little reason for Levan to build his obnoxious Harley dealership, to inflict the bikers on the town, or to want to inflict his casino on the community. That’s the connection.

    Eric

  6. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 9:28 am

    Brian,

    I agree. Another friend described it as reminding him of a bus station.

    Eric

  7. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 9:28 am

    Craig,

    Boy, do I hope you’re wrong, but I fear you’re right.

    Eric

  8. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 9:28 am

    PHW,

    I hope you enjoy it.

    I will be curious to hear your thoughts when you’ve finished it.

    Eric

  9. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 12:35 pm

    I’ll amend that… Gettysburg is becoming a “Segway” battlefield! When last in the Peach Orchard I watched a “covey” of those two wheeled contraptions advanced across from Confederate Avenue. There’s a place and time for everything, but if you are on a CW battlefield, wouldn’t the horse be a better choice?

  10. Wed 06th Aug 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Being who I am, I am completely biased. But I am much more of a fan of the Visitor Center than any business on Steinwehr claiming to be a museum or place to learn about Gettysburg.

  11. kevin a kearns
    Wed 20th Aug 2008 at 9:59 pm

    the tourists will still find steinwehr ave.picketts buffet, lincoln train mu,wax mu,china buffet etc,will keep them coming. as for vc telling whole story of cw, for majority of people gettysburg is the cw,it the site most will go to in their lifetime,cw mu in harrisburg? it should be in gettysb so more see itor at least in nashville or vicksburg or washington or richmond.tourists will still find downtown shops

  12. GrayReb
    Mon 08th Sep 2008 at 7:18 am

    Visit Gettysburg often as a Civil War History buff. Rarely do I frequent the little junk shops on Steinwehr Ave. but did venture there once for a Ghost Tour. Prefer the Battlefield and Historical houses and museums. Can’t wait to visit the new Visitor’s Center later this month. If it weren’t for the National Park Service and their dedication to preservation and historical accuracy, there would be little to draw us tourists to Gettysburg time and time again. If I had my druthers, all these little shops that hawk cheap Chinese trinkets would disappear, unless of course, the buildings may have some historical value.

  13. beetle_juice
    Mon 08th Sep 2008 at 7:36 am

    As an annual visitor to Gettysburg, I prefer the Battlefield, historic homes and museums to the little souvenier and junk shops on Steinwehr. If I had my druthers, they can all disappear, unless of course, the buildings themselves have some historical value. Am somewhat disappointed in what I’ve read about the new Visitor’s Center. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the historical artifacts that were on display in the old center, but it sounds as if they’ve been secreted elsewhere, if they’re not currently displayed. Where’d they go? Will I be disappointed later this month when I return?

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