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House allocates $400K for Civil War heritage

Monday, May 22, 2006

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved $400,000 in federal funding for the Tennessee Civil War Heritage Area to promote tourism and economic development in Bedford County and across the state, announced U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.

"Because Tennessee played a key role in the Civil War, it is important we conserve, interpret and commemorate the places where our history unfolded," said Gordon, a co-founder of the Congressional Battlefield Caucus.

"The heritage area helps state residents and visitors from across the country have a better understanding of the state's Civil War legacy. And it provides opportunities for tourism, education and economic development in every Tennessee county because of the numerous battles that were fought across the state."

Bedford County was a hotbed of activity during the Civil War. Battles, skirmishes and other activity in the county include Bell Buckle, Springfield, Wartrace, Petersburg, Unionville, Thompson's Station, Fairfield, Middleton, Liberty Gap, Hoover's Gap, Flat Creek, Garrison's Fork, Farmington, Mulberry Creek and Shelbyville Pike.

The funding was included in an appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of the Interior. The bill was approved by the House Thursday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Gordon introduced federal legislation to form the heritage area through a proposal written by the Middle Tennessee State University Center for Historic Preservation. Congress approved the legislation in 1996.

MTSU's Historic Preservation Center, the Tennessee Historical Commission/Tennessee Wars Commission and the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development are the lead agencies implementing the area.

According to Van West, director of both the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, the funding will be used for programs, a statewide guidebook, interpretive exhibits and the establishment of a Cumberland Valley driving tour.

"We are preparing the state for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011," said West. "Now is the time for Tennessee to be the regional leader for Civil War tourism.

"We will use this funding to develop exhibits, pamphlets and books so out-of-state tourists will gravitate to Tennessee for the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War."

Nearly 100 million people visit cultural and historical sites in the U.S. each year. Tennessee ranks second only to Virginia in the number of visits to Civil War sites.

"Tennessee's heritage is certainly rich," said Gordon. "By preserving these areas, we ensure that our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to visit these sites and learn about our state's history."