Preserving hallowed ground isn’t only about honoring the past. It’s also about the gifts that historic landscapes and open spaces can offer to present and future generations. Here are five ways battlefield preservation is good for communities.
Battlefield parks strengthen community bonds.
Preserved battlefields provide a place where diverse people – be they historians, tourists, students, or park employees – come together to better understand their nation’s history. Parks and historic sites have an even greater impact in rural communities where accessible public spaces are limited. From community service opportunities to battle anniversaries and special events, battlefield parks provide unique social experiences that connect neighbors and visitors to one another and their shared heritage.
Many battlefield parks are ideal settings for outdoor recreation.
While the battles that shaped our history were fought on diverse terrain, the majority took place on the farms and fields that predated America’s second Industrial Revolution. That makes a preserved battlefield the perfect setting to enjoy the great outdoors. Outdoor recreational activities like kayaking, picnicking, running, walking and hiking have major benefits for physical and mental health. Healthier people make healthier communities.
Battlefield preservation is good for local economies.
In 2015, 9.7 million people visited the top 10 U.S. battlefields. All together, these visits generated $569 million in sales in local communities, supported nearly 6,800 local jobs and added $15 million to state and local coffers. As visitors seek tour guides, souvenirs, food, shelter and entertainment, battlefield tourism can support a variety of industries and create jobs on and off the battlefield. Tax revenue from tourism may be redirected into education, infrastructure and other critical investments in the community.
Our communities are only as healthy as the ecosystems around us. From the water we drink to the air we breathe to the food we eat, our environment has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. The preservation of open space and restoration of battlefields – from restoring native vegetation to protecting watersheds to promoting no-till farming – benefits neighboring all residents and communities.
Battlefield preservation promotes a culture of conservation – environmental and historical.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of preserving battlefields is what it can teach current and future generations about protecting our most valued resources. With the lands we protect, we must also save the stories and lessons that bring meaning to these places. When we protect these places, we build a legacy of stewardship – of history and of nature – that can have exponential cultural and environmental returns.
Ultimately, battlefield preservation is about people and their stories. The people of the past, who worked and fought for what they believed in, and the people of the present and future, who deserve to understand their nation’s history. It only makes sense, then, that the practice of preservation should pay so many dividends to the people who visit historic sites and the communities that have grown up around them.
Battlefields are important to communities because they provide a critical link to the history of that area and the entire nation.
Hon. Steve Israel, Former Chair of the Congressional Battlefields Caucus