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At Last, a Gettysburg Redress

In practical terms, that means that glamour projects, such as a new visitor center at a beloved battlefield, get funded, while fixing sewage lines or repairing roads moves to the bottom of the list.

Latschar, whom many credit for having pursued the rehabilitation of Gettysburg with impressive determination, is happy just to be free of the old visitor center.

"We were holding the old place together with duct tape and chewing gum," he says. Given that the Gettysburg Foundation will operate and maintain the new visitor center, being rid of the old one, which the Park Service maintained, will save money.

These funding issues will be mostly lost on visitors to the new facility. The success of the building isn't architectural, and it isn't even particularly about the new, more contextual history it presents. What makes it work is its basic seriousness, its fustiness, its old-fashioned look and feel. It is understated in a classic National Park Service way. It feels like a seamless part of the old Park Service brand. The paradox is that it took some major financial outsourcing to build a basic, high-quality Park Service visitor center. The danger of that trend isn't lost on Park Service old-timers.

"I think it is a serious mistake when the United States is too cheap to take care of its own heritage and basically becomes dependent on private donations," says Rogers, who isn't opposed to the particular partnership at Gettysburg. "A proud nation shouldn't do that."

Gettysburg National Military Park is open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. April 1-Oct. 31, and 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Nov. 1-March 31. The park's visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., till 6 p.m. in summer. Admission is free. For information, call 717-334-1124, Ext. 431, or visit http://www.nps.gov/gett.


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