The National Park Service has announced that it has commissioned a new trolley system to connect its new Visitors Center (which is slated for a grand opening in April if it continues to be on schedule) with downtown Gettysburg and other key stops. The new system will be up and running by next spring. The Park Service is still deciding if it will physically operate the trolleys under direct NPS control (a la their bus service to Ike’s farm) or by private contractors operating under a license from the Park Service). The proposed trolley line would make a total of nine stops, including the downtown square, a pair of stops along the tourist/hotel region on Steinwehr Avenue, the National Cemtery, the VC of course, and a couple of others. The fee for the trolley ride has yet to be determined, but leading hotels will be allowed to purchase trolley passes for their guests. The project is receiving widespread backing from the tourism and visitors folks, as well as from private businesses that had been very concerned about the NPS decision to move their VC away from tourist row.
Some other news of note:
1. The NPS will continue the tree cutting project over the winter, with clearing set for several new locations.
2. Reynolds Avenue will be closed to the public for three months over the winter, starting in January. The bridge over the famed Railroad Cut will be replaced during this downtime.
3. The Cyclorama restoration is on schedule. Half of the 14 individual panels have been hung on their new mountings in the new VC. The local newspaper had photographs a couple of weeks ago. The Cyclorama will be higher than before, as sections cut off years ago are being replaced with modern replicas that will allow the viewer to see much more sky.
4. The current NPS-approved audio tape tour is being expanded to cover a “fourth day,” with new stops downtown and a longer tape that explains more of the post-battle impact on Gettysburg. It will include a stop at the restored Wills House, where Lincoln stayed during his November 1863 visit to Gettysburg for the cemetery dedication.
5. The NPS will unveil a brand new, totally redesigned Gettysbburg National Military Park website by the end of this year, with dozens of new and improved features.
The magnitude of what the NPS is trying to accomplish is staggering. The good news is that more than $1 million of unplanned money is being diverted by the Federal government to Gettysburg. It is money earmarked for other parks (such as Valley Forge), but they do not have approved spending plans in place, so the NPS is shifting cash to Gettysburg, which has a number of plans in the hopper that can use these funds.