Battlefields Mean Business
The Economic Case for Preservation
There are so many reasons to preserve battlefields. Battlefield preservation benefits the environment. It connects communities. It promotes education. And it makes economic sense.
In 2015, just 10 U.S. battlefield sites:
- hosted 9.7 million visitors;
- generated $569 million in sales in local communities;
- supported nearly 6,800 local jobs; and
- added $15 million to state and local coffers.
But these figures tell only a partial story of how battlefield visitors support the economy. Here are five important ways preserving hallowed ground benefits businesses and people across the country.
- Battlefield tourism supports local business.
Battlefields have the power to attract visitors who would otherwise travel elsewhere, as well as history lovers. According to a 2015 study, for one in three out-of-town guests, visiting a battlefield park was their primary reason for traveling to the area. Those visits mean local revenue generation from souvenirs, refreshments, park entries and tour guide fees.
Once visitors are in town, they’re likely to spend money off the battlefield too. A 2011 study found that 70% of Civil War tourists spend at least one night in the battlefield communities they visit. That means that in addition to local revenue from the park itself, battlefield tourism also benefits hotels, campgrounds, gas stations, restaurants and other recreational attractions.
- Battlefield tourism generates tax revenue.
Revenue from merchandise sales, hotel, restaurant and other taxes related to tourism has a big economic impact. A study from 2006 found that each visitor to 20 Civil War sites, on average, added $2.92 to local government coffers and $5.22 to state tax revenues. This doesn’t sound like much on an individual level, but it adds up to $11.7 million to local and $21 million to state governments in a given year.
- Battlefield tourism creates jobs.
Revenue from national, state, and local historic sites and parks directly affects employment in battlefield communities. On average, visits by 956 tourists support one full-time job, thanks to what economists call the multiplier effect. Basically, local businesses spend the visitor dollars they take in to pay employees, purchase goods and cover other expenses. Money these businesses spend can then be spent again by the businesses and individuals who receive it, and so on down the line.
In five states – Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia – this multiplier effect meant that 15.8 million visitors to 15 National Park Service Civil War battlefield parks and historic sites contributed more than $248 million to local communities in one year. The 2011 analysis found that the money spent on these visits supported 5,150 local jobs, paying $151 million to local workers.
- Preserved battlefields increase nearby property values.
Research suggests that both open space and historic preservation are good for property values. A 2010 study in southeastern Pennsylvania estimated that being near protected open space increased home values by a total of $16.3 billion, generating $240 million in property tax revenues each year. A 2011 study in the same area found that property values increased by an average of 1.6 percent for each mile closer to a national historic district and 0.5 percent for each mile closer to a local historic district.
- Land conservation is good for the economy.
Battlefield preservation offers many of the same economic benefits as land conservation in general. Land conservation improves the quality of the air, water and soil, which in turn benefits food production and public health. As HeadWaters Land Conservancy notes, land conservation “saves tax dollars by encouraging more efficient development, and reduces the need for expensive water filtration systems.” Preserved battlefields can also provide a place for outdoor recreation, which research has found to have physical and mental health benefits. Healthy outdoor spaces mean healthier people. Healthy people working, shopping and otherwise engaging with the wider world are the key to a healthy economy.
We save battlefields so future generations can learn about their country’s heritage. Still, it’s good to know we don’t have to choose between history and economic development – preserving these hallowed grounds makes perfect economic sense.
Creating outdoor recreation spaces for the public to enjoy provides “nature therapy”, natural sunlight, breaths of fresh air and walking trails.
One of the three reasons visitors come to Charleston is due to our rich history, a thread in the vast tapestry that makes up the story of our nation. We are obligated to use this as a ‘teaching moment’; the economic benefits only confirm that the message falls on eager ears.
Blake Hallman, Member, Charleston, S.C. City Council