- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) - Tourism is alive in Beatrice as the home of the Homestead National Monument of America.

Each year, the monument brings up to 100,000 visitors to the community who spend $3.2 million in the area, Homestead National Monument of America Park Superintendent Mark Engler said.

“Each of those people when they come to visit especially when they come long distances from regional points or national points, they often spend money in our community,” Engler told the Beatrice Daily Sun (https://bit.ly/1eqT6MN). “That’s good for everybody in the area.”

From visitor spending and the monument’s own payroll, 83 jobs are created.

Engler said the monument, which tells the nation’s homesteading story, also brings prominence to the community and the entire state.

Engler said the monument’s economic power also comes with the national parks associated with it like Yellowstone, Gettysburg or the Statue of Liberty.

“Each of these national park service units represent a special part of our nation’s story,” Engler said. “For us, it the story of our nation’s homesteading.”

He said great community pride arises from seeing the monument on a postage stamp or as the name of ship. Next year, the monument will be featured on the back of a U.S. quarter.

Park ranger Susan Cook often coordinates events to attract visitors to the monument. The monument’s two main buildings, the Heritage Center and Education Center, host most of the events.

The Heritage Center serves as the entrance to the park and offers the museum setting, while the Education Center allows staff to host large crowds.

The monument staff offers programs nearly every week and annual events throughout the year from the March Storytelling Festival to Howling Homestead event in October.

Cook said the monument also offers something people may take for granted in its walking paths through the prairie, nature.

“The trails offer a great way for people to getaway for mental restoration or just walking,” Cook said.

The monument was created in 1936 by people who worked passionately to see a site created in Beatrice to commemorate the Homestead Act and first homestead site, Engler said.

“I have to hope that we are meeting their expectations, and I have to be thankful they had the foresight and vision of creating a national park service site and seeing the benefits it would bring not only the state but to the nation.”

In addition to daily monument activities, monument staff and volunteers are also working with the National Archives, Family Heritage, Fold3.com and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to digitalize Nebraska’s homestead records.

Engler said more than 1 million records have already been digitalized, and he anticipates completion in March.

Guests interested in the records can search them for free at the Heritage Center.

“Researchers and others who are interested in learning more about homesteading know they got to go to Nebraska,” Engler said. “They have to go to southeast Nebraska. They got to go to Beatrice and they got to go to Homestead National Monument of America.”


Information from: Beatrice Sun, https://www.beatricedailysun.com



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