Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Parks = Tourism = Strong Economy

Tourism is big business and one of the best kinds of economic activity to strengthen an entire community. When people visit a place for leisure or business they stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in local stores, all while seeing the sights of the area.

In Northern Virginia tourism contributed $7.597 Billion to the local economy in 2008! This is why tourism is Virginia's #2 industry (behind agriculture) and why Northern Virginia is one of the most important engines for tourism in the Commonwealth.

What makes people select an area for travel is mostly affected by what there is to do in that area...what are the attractions? And this is where parks come in. Particularly National, and Regional Parks which make up some of the most important historic sites, and unique features in the Northern Virginia region. The list of sites is extensive but a few examples include:
    Carlyle House
  • Mt.Vernon, home of George Washington and the biggest tourist magnet in Northern Virginia, while not technically a park, it functions much like one and has set a new standard for engaging the public in history.
  • Carlyle House in Alexandria is another fantastic colonial era mansion that saw George Washington as a frequent guest, and was the site where the French and Indian War was planned by General Braddock. This site is owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
  • Manassas Battlefield, site of two of the most important battle of the Civil War, this is a property of the National Park Service. This and other sites will be the focus of more attention as we remember the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War in 2011.
  • W&OD Trail
  • Balls Bluff Battlefield outside of Leesburg is another of the sites of early conflict during the Civil War. The political fall out of this battle had a lasting effect on the Union Army's command structure. This site is also owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
  •  Truly unique features like the 45 mile W&OD Trail also attract thousands of people from outside the area to come and ride what many consider the best rails-to-trails trail in the nation. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority developed this attraction during the 1970s and 1980s.
Developing new attractions continues. At Meadowlark Gardens, work is well underway creating a Korean Bell Garden that is unique in North America. This attraction should help attract tourist both nationally and internationally. Studies have found the some international tourist spend up to 10 times as much as domestic tourist.

Another project in development that will be a tourist attraction is the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial at Occoquan Regional Park. This will be the only real memorial to the sacrifices of the women that were imprisoned in 1917-18 for protesting in favor of the right to vote for women. This unique memorial will be an attraction for tourist from around the country.

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