Huzzah for Civil War Trails

I’ll be honest: I don’t often get delighted to get bills in the mail. But the other day, the friendly neighborhood letter carrier from the USPS brought me a renewal notice from Civil War Trails, and I was delighted. I’m a huge fan of the Trails, and the letter inside from Executive Director Drew Gruber reminded me why.

“An international pandemic has challenged our resources and economies, and a national dialogue about race and society has added to our conversations and understanding of the Civil War era,” Drew wrote. “Civil War Trails has approached every challenge as an opportunity….”

Civil War Trails is essentially an open-air museum, which carries some unique benefits in this age of COVID-19. The Trails “served guests in a big way,” Drew said, “providing a safe and responsible outlets to live, learn, and exercise while connecting visitors to local curb-side amenities.” He also noted that the Trails “continued to serve communities as they turned to their local historic sites and stories to better understand our present and to build a better future.”

Then Drew said something that really stood out–and really resonated–with me: “We serve.”

That’s why I love Civil War Trails. As a tourist, they provide me with valuable on-site interpretation, often where there would otherwise be none. As a historian, they provide me with additional resources and interpretive context when I’m giving tours. They enhance my Civil War experience immeasurably—and, I suspect, they’ve enhanced your experience, too! I’m such a believer, I sponsor a sign on my own, as do several of my ECW colleagues. ECW also sponsors a sign.

I told Drew I was going to do some unabashed cheerleading based on his letter. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the great opportunities the Civil War Trails offers. Find out more here.

And for a look at their recent accomplishments:

About Us
• Civil War Trails delivers economic development by the carload – everyday.
• Civil War Trails, Inc., is a non-profit founded in 1994 offering more than than 1,200 sites in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.
• Civil War Trails is governed by a board of directors comprised of state and municipal tourism officers and other stakeholders.
• More than 800 partners (state travel offices, destination marking organizations, chambers, businesses, museums, etc.) support and promote the program on a daily basis.
• More than 750 of our sites are being interpreted to the public for the first time.
• We produce in partnership 15 map-guide brochures that are distributed domestically and internationally and available online, at travel centers, sites, and amenities internationally.

About Our Visitors*
• Interest in historic sites continues to grow at a rate exceeding the national average.
• History travelers are getting younger with the largest increase seen in the 25-34 range.
• Our average overnight history travel party of 2.5 guests stays 3.5 nights spending over $1,000.
• Our average guest spent 25% of their budget on food and beverage, and 33% on lodgings.
• Interest in history continues to grow, esp. among foodies, beer, and recreation travelers.
• Millennials actively look for historic sites, shops, and lodging when they travel.

About 2019
• We launched our new GPS based digital map on the website.
• We designed, updated, and reprinted six maps due to popular demand.
• We completed our membership survey and began testing new marketing universals.
• We were recognized by the Maryland Dept. of the Environment and Virginia Green.
• We welcomed 105 new sponsors into the program.
• We added the first new sites in Pennsylvania.

About 2020 – So Far!
• Above average requests for brochures during the first two quarters.
• Redesign and reprinting of two brochures to keep up with increasing demand.
• Interest in road trips to rural places and outdoor amenities continues to rise.**
• Updated and refreshed 22 interpretive signs.

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* Statistics derived from several reports generated by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, US Travel, Chmura Economics, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Battlefield Trust.

** Destination Analytics, Longwoods, Miles surveys.

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