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Emmitsburg welcome center
celebrates grand opening

Ingrid Mezo

(5/18) State and town officials celebrated the grand opening of the Mason & Dixon Discovery Center in Emmitsburg Tuesday amid a scenic view of the town and Civil War re-enactors who marked the occasion with cannon fire.

‘‘We want to welcome everybody here to enjoy the view of Emmitsburg that we enjoy every day," Mayor James Hoover said during opening remarks.

The center, which functions as a rest stop and welcome center along U.S. Route 15 Southbound, actually opened in July. It replaces the Emmitsburg Welcome Center in the same area, and cost the state and federal government $5.34 million to construct.

Center employee Joan Keepers, a Pennsylvania resident who also lived in Emmitsburg for 45 years, said she is one four employees at the new center. All but one — Roger Troxell, who lives in Emmitsburg — now reside in Pennsylvania, but used to live in either Thurmont or Emmitsburg.

The new center includes features from the Civil War era such as split fences, orchard trees and herbal gardens. It includes two new buildings, with a 6,523 square-foot welcome center and restroom facilities of 3,227 square feet. The former welcome center included both services in a 1,000 square-foot building.

The new center commemorates soldiers who camped in the Emmitsburg area during the Civil War. Artifacts donated by the community will be moved to an exhibit room slated for completion by spring 2008.

Outside the center, visitors can enjoy views from a scenic overlook area, eat at picnic pavilions with electricity, buy snacks from an outdoor vending machine, or stretch their travel-weary limbs on walking trails. Visitors can also walk pets in the dog walking area, complete with a dog watering station, and children can play on a playground.

‘‘...Our numbers [of visitors] have increased," Supervisor Joyce Little said. ‘‘Our bus numbers have increased — 72 buses stopped by in April. People really enjoy the wow factor."


The new Mason & Dixon Discovery Center in Emmitsburg includes: 40 parking spots 12 more truck and camper parking spots 8 spaces for buses Wi-fi capabilities and televisions for up-to-date news, weather and road conditions

Little said the center is now able to display about 2,000 brochures organized by location in Maryland, whereas the old center could only accommodate 1,000 brochures.

Also during the grand opening celebration, state and local officials unveiled the Maryland Department of Tourism’s new Maryland and Virginia Civil War Trails Guide, and the ‘‘America’s Byways" sign, which designates U.S. Route 15 as a National Scenic Byway.

Officials from the Tourism Council of Frederick County accepted a $44,480 grant from the federal government which will go toward marketing U.S. Route 15 as a National Scenic Byway, and will be used to create a brochure highlighting the county’s 15 top attractions along the route. The tourism council is working with officials from towns along U.S. Route 15, including Emmitsburg and Thurmont, to come up with the l5 attractions, said John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

In addition, state and local officials unveiled a stone marker commemorating Monsignor Hugh J. Phillips, former president of Mount Saint Mary’s University. John Kinnaird of Kinnaird Memorials in Thurmont created the marker, which includes a dedication to Phillips recognizing him for his efforts to have a welcome center established at the location.

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