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Ky. legislature’s joint resolution leads to study of historic battlefields’ impact

Supporters of the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site are hoping a joint resolution recently approved by the Kentucky General Assembly will eventually lead to more funding for the park and tourism dollars coming into the area.

Joni House, park manager and head of the Kentucky Civil War Sites Association, said the resolution wasn’t a law, but “it points to the fact that legislators are aware of the importance of battlefield preservation to the state. It’s important to Kentucky because history is a very important part and is a tourism driver.”

The resolution requests that the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet work with historical and preservation organizations to identify Civil War battlefield needs, and study a report being submitted by the Civil War Sites Association and the American Battlefield Trust, formerly named the Civil War Trust.

It also expects the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet to provide feedback and information gathered by these two organizations to the Interim Joint Committee on Tourism, Small Business and Information Technology on or before Dec. 3.

House said the Kentucky Civil War Sites Association, through a grant in 2016, has already completed the in-depth survey of visitors to Kentucky battlefield sites and has compiled the information in an economic impact study for the National Park Service.

She said details of their economic research will probably be released in September and includes information such as the numbers of visitors to each site, length of stay, and places where they spent money locally, such as for food, gas and lodging. It gives an overall economic picture of how tourism at historical battlefields affects Kentucky, and it breaks down the information to show economic impact in each area where there is a battlefields.

House wouldn’t give specific figures, but said, “I can tell you the economic impact in Boyle County is significant. It put a lot of money into the pockets of local businesses.”

Tom Bennett, who lives in Frankfort and represents the American Battlefield Trust in Kentucky, said he is confident that once state government settles its budget and pension issues, legislators will focus on economic activities such as tourism, which includes promoting Revolutionary and Civil War sites in Kentucky. Kentucky has more than two dozen such sites which generate jobs and economic activity in areas across the Commonwealth.

Bennett said now is the time for legislators to invest in Kentucky’s infrastructure. “Battlefields are part of the state’s infrastructure that has roots that go back 200 years.”

Jennifer Kirchner, executive director of the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said even though the joint resolution isn’t law, it shows the state government is willing to consider the economic importance of supporting battlefield tourism sites, such as the Perryville Battlefield.

“I really think that first and foremost, all of these legislative actions are very valuable. State government is part of the process,” in laying the foundation to expand and promote battlefield tourism.

“From the CVB’s perspective, we know it (Perryville Battlefield) is our biggest and greatest attraction, so it’s of great value of generating tourism. People come from all over the world,” Kirchner said.

“The whole county was used in the battle — for hospitals and encampments. The courthouse was a hospital,” as well as Trinity Episcopal Church and Centre College, she said.

“When you start putting all of that together, it’s the foundation of so much of who we are.”

Kirchner said with so many organizations working together and the General Assembly taking a formal interest in the preservation of historic battlefield because of their economic importance to the state, “It’s the most inspiring and hopeful endeavor I’ve seen to date for the battlefield.”

“This is bipartisan. This is a project that’s bringing people together, not like the Civil War where people were divided.”