My husband and I spent this past Fourth of July weekend at Gettysburg, PA. I blogged about it upon my return, but felt then and still feel now that my words were inadequate in describing the experience. As I noted then, the 2 1/2 hour Segueway tour we took on Sunday was the perfect way to see the Battlefield and really get a sense of what happened there. I am ashamed to admit that prior to my visit, my knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg was woefully inadequate.
In any event, I feel now that the experince of Gettysburg moved me like no other trip ever has. Touring the battlefield’s gently rolling, peaceful hills, while in my mind’s eye, superimposing the images of battle, dead and wounded was an experince I won’t soon forget. Indeed, I am currently reliving it through a book one of my readers recommended, called “The Killer Angels.” Whether I am finding this book so engrossing because it so vividly brings the story alive, or because I found the experience of Gettysburg so emotionally touching, I don’t know, but like my reader, I highly recommend the book (Thanks, Art!).
Prior to my visit, I used to think that the re-enactments had a flavor of hokiness, but after seeing a couple, I have come to view them as a way to honor history and keep it alive. To be sure, the town of Gettysburg has it’s share of honky-tonk attractions: ghost tours, “dramatized” battlefield tours, privately run tourist trap museums, tee shirt shops with pictures of Lincoln wearing an iPod, etc. These things run the gamut from mildly exploitive to offensive, but they all are predicated on what happened at Gettysburg.
So when I heard about a developer who wanted to build a casino on Emmitsburg Road a mere half a mile from the boundary of Gettysburg National Park, it just didn’t seem right. Inky:
The developer of a proposed casino in Gettysburg today called the historic community “the last untapped gaming marketplace” in Pennsylvania, and contended that his project would create jobs and revitalize the area while respecting its rich history and tradition.
David LeVan, the Adams County resident proposing the casino, told state gaming board officials at a packed hearing that his $75 million Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino project would have a “tremendous economic development” impact on the county and would not affect Gettysburg National Military Park, one of the nation’s first “hallowed” grounds.
He also said that many other towns and communities – including Philadelphia, Valley Forge, and Deadwood, S.D. – have shown that gambling and “heritage tourism” can successfully coexist.
“This can be done right,” LeVan said. “This will be done well.”
The “Mason-Dixon Hotel Resort and Casino?” Even the name sounds hokey. And sorry, I’m not quite buying “the last untapped gaming marketplace in Pennsylvania” line. I don’t want to question Mr. LaVan’s motives here, but why Gettysburg if not to capitalize on the tourist base that already comes here to honor history? Somehow the flashing lights and bells of slot machines, cheesy lounge acts, scampily clad cocktail waitresses and drunken revelry don’t seem in to be in keeping with the spirit of sacrifice and destiny that lives at Gettysburg.
Just as there should be no mosque at Ground Zero, just as there should be no shortcut road through Fernwood Cemetary to Spring-Ford High School there are ways to respect hallowed ground and there are definite ways to disrespect it.
After hearing pleas from several members of the public about the potential impact on Fernwood Cemetery, the Spring-Ford Area School Board shelved its plan for an easement for a driveway to connect the high school to Walnut Street.
The board voted 5-3 against a resolution that would have authorized acquisition of an easement on parcels owned by PD Roy L.L.C. and Royersford Cemetery L.L.C. The proposed driveway was intended to reduce traffic on Lewis Road because of the high school.
Monica Rebbie, of Limerick Township, acknowledged that the planned driveway would not have disturbed any graves in the cemetery. But she told the board that the proposed route was only yards from where her baby was buried.
Rebbie said she recognized that there was a need to alleviate traffic on Lewis Road. “I don’t think going through the cemetery is the answer,” she added. Rebbie said the driveway would create noise in the cemetery, and she asked the board members if they would want that to happen where their loved ones were buried.
In the case of Fernwood Cemetary and Ground Zero, relatives of the dead can speak on behalf of the departed regarding how they want them to be honored and conversely, how they don’t want the ground where they died treated. In the case of Gettysburg, we all must speak on behalf of the honored dead. We owe that to the men who sacrificed their lives for this country.
No one is questioning LeVan’s right to build the casino; we are questioning the wisdom of building a casino in this location. We are asking to keep this ground sacred and remember what happened here, not cheapen it with an exploitive tourist attraction.
No casino at Gettysburg.