- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — A Civil War tourism plan for three Maryland counties targets Hagerstown, Middletown and Taneytown for special state grants, loans and tax credits aimed at boosting private investment downtown.

The communities, all near major battlefields, have central business districts that are ripe for revitalization, according to the management plan for the proposed Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.

They would be the first towns targeted for investment, followed by Boonsboro, Emmitsburg, Frederick, Sykesville, Westminster and Williamsport.

The plan, more than two years in the making, was released Oct. 12 and is available at www.heartofthecivilwar.org. It envisions new restaurants, shops, lodging and streetscapes to enhance the region’s appeal.

Successful implementation would bring nearly 66,500 new visitors and $9.1 million in additional tourist spending annually to Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties, a consultant estimates.

In Hagerstown, a Washington County town of 37,500, officials hope the incentives will spur private investment in attractions, including a museum keyed toward the nearby Antietam and South Mountain battlefields.

“We have a rich history, but we keep our light under a bushel,” Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher said this week. “Not only would it alert more tourists to the role Hagerstown played during the Civil War, but it would make more resources available to us to tell that story.”

In the next two months, a 21-member steering committee led by Janet Davis, Frederick County’s historic preservation planner, will seek participation commitments from the region’s 29 county boards and municipal councils.

The committee hopes to appear before a quarterly meeting of the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority on Feb. 10 to request certification of the tourism-development effort.

The authority likely will require commitments from at least 25 percent of the jurisdictions, including all three county boards, before certifying the region as being eligible for financial aid, said Richard Hughes, chief of heritage planning and outreach for the Maryland Historical Trust.

Maryland has 10 certified heritage areas and three recognized heritage areas, including the Civil War zone, that are working toward certification. The General Assembly approved the program in 1996.

Besides the Antietam and South Mountain battlefields, the Civil War region includes the Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick County.

Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa., is about 15 miles north of Taneytown, a Carroll County community of 5,400.

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