The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center, second only to the actual battlefield on the must-see list for tourists at Gettysburg, will cost considerably more by next year if rate increases are approved. All categories of tickets, except children under five, will increase by at least $2.
The museum is filled with Civil War treasures from the Gettysburg battlefield and also offers an introductory film, large gift shop and the beautifully restored Cyclorama mural. The venue is operated by the Gettysburg Foundation in partnership with the Gettysburg National Military Park, the keeper of the famous battlefield. There is no charge to visit the battlefield.
The foundation, a private, nonprofit educational organization, built the $103 million museum complex. It is required to operate the museum and pay down the $20 million in municipal bonds used for construction. In 2028, the foundation is legally bound to have paid off the debt and to turn over the facility to the National Park Service.
The new fees are needed to offset higher operating expenses, according to the foundation. The increase was endorsed by Bob Kirby, battlefield superintendent who said it would, “create sustainability for the Gettysburg Foundation for a minimum of three years.”
If the new prices go into effect, it will be the second hike since the museum opened in 2008. The new complex replaced what had been a free museum and visitors center that operated in a much smaller building and was run by the Park Service.
The proposed rates, at first glance, look modest but there are other less obvious changes that will make a significant difference to visitors. The age category used to determine the ticket price--adult, youth, child and so forth--would also change, creating a much larger pool of adults and youth. Now adults are those who are 19 years and older but the new fee structure would count children as young as 13 as adults. Youth, now considered those between the ages of 6 and 18, would become those between ages 6 and 12.
A family with two teenagers now pays $34 to see the museum. Under the proposed fee structure, that same family would pay $50 for tickets.
It could be a tough sell for the public, which often turns to the national parks for a relatively inexpensive vacation.
Gettysburg park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said the public is invited to comment on the proposed fees in writing to Bob Kirby, Park Superintendent, at 1195 Gettysburg Pike, Gettysburg, Pa. 17325 or by email at GETT_Superintendent@nps.gov. There will also be a public hearing on April 14 at 7 p.m. at the museum’s Ford Education Center.
“We have opened this current fee proposal to public comments and we will carefully consider feedback before making any decision on how best to proceed,” Lawhon said. The deadline for responses is May 2.