When the GNMP and Gettysburg Foundation announced plans to hold a public forum to discuss the proposed entrance fee I was skeptical. I anticipated a meeting that would do little more than give certain interest groups a chance to voice frustrations that have been building over time and which would fail to address the financial situation at hand. The new Visitor Center has not met its financial mark thus far and as a result VC officials have proposed a flat fee of $7.50 for the museum, Cyclorama, and feature film. Well, the meeting seems to have played out just as I had anticipated. All of the major players were in attendance, but they failed to offer nothing but non-constructive criticism:
Gene Golden, businessman: At a salary of $392,735, it would take 52,364 people paying $7.50 just to pay (Gettysburg Foundation President) Bob Wilburn’s salary. Franklin Silbey: If anyone here believes that the decision hasn’t been made, you’re naive. Nothing that anyone says here tonight will change their decision. How many promises have
they made and now broken?
Bob Monahan, Jr., developer whose own proposal for a VC was rejected: The whole concept was that there wasn’t to be one cent of taxpayer money used to fund anything. Two reasons were given to me why my proposal wasn’t selected — I was proposing a $3 fee to see portions of the museum, and my project was $40 million, which I thought was reasonable at the time. Now look at the costs.
Eric Uberman, Gettysburg Businessman: There is a lot of reason for skepticism when it has to do with money within these walls. We were sold on no commercialism or tax dollars, but as Dr. Latschar has said, that is no longer true. We also had Mr. Kinsley stand up before Congress and say that this was his gift to America — it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Jones: The film is very good, but it is no substitute for the Electric Map.
I appreciate the fact that various parties are disappointed in this development, but at the same time it is a problem that needs a solution. In the end the proposal is very reasonable. The overwhelming majority of families will not mind paying the fee given that many other historical sites charge a fee – some coming with a much higher price attached. It’s hard not to interpret much of the outcry as simply a question of whether an entrance fee ought to be charged. Some are still fuming over the dismantling of the outdated Electric Map while others are disappointed in the content of the new film, gift shop, and museum exhibit.
My recent visit to Gettysburg reignited my interest in the battle and I hope to return on a more regular basis in the future. I have no problem with the entrance fee and will gladly pay it. In fact, I think it is a real bargain.
Click here for my review of the new Visitor Center.