Gettysburg National Military Park in battle to preserve history

Investigations

Gettysburg National Military Park preserves the site of the deadliest battle fought on American soil.

For years, park rangers and historians have worked to maintain the hallowed ground, but the price of preservation is growing.

“We’re trying to maintain structures that are very old, that are very historic,” said Lewis Rogers Jr., the acting superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Every year, more than a million people get a glimpse into 1863 and the Battle of Gettysburg. Most visitors do not see the millions of dollars worth of repairs needed in and around the park.

“The Park Service is dealing with something that we call deferred maintenance, which is backlog maintenance,” said Rogers.

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the park’s backlog of infrastructure repairs totals $55.5 million. The biggest deferred maintenance bill is $16.2 million, which is needed to fix roads that allow visitors to see the battlefield.

Around $16 million is needed to fix deferred landscape work near Little Round Top and Devil’s Den. More than $11 million is needed to rehab historic buildings in Gettysburg. 

“We tend to preserve those things that made us who we are, so it’s very important that we cannot only tell you that story but that we can tell future generations,” said Rogers.

The National Park Service’s annual budget is usually around $6.9 million. Every year, park officials have to decide what gets fixed and what doesn’t. 

“You’re constantly making decisions about what you’re going to fix, what you’re going to care for and what you’re going to try to put off,” said Rogers. “You’re still trying to fix those things with the same amount of money that you had in the past.”

Visitors spend $70.1 million a year when they visit Gettysburg, and the park’s economic output is $94 million. The park and the surrounding area have created 953 jobs for people. 

There is a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate that would give $6.5 million to the National Park Service. It is unclear when or if the bill will get a vote. If it passes, it will be up to the National Park Service to decide how much money, if any, goes to Gettysburg National Military Park.

“We may possibly get to a place where we can manage things better, where we can get a better handle on things. I don’t know if we’ll really ever catch up,” said Rogers.

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