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Thurmont looks to boost tourism along 15

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(3/9) Thurmont officials are working with a historic preservation organization to help bring more tourism dollars to the town.

Town officials voted during a meeting Feb. 28 to sign a letter of support for the organization — The Journey Through Hallowed Ground — dedicated to the preservation and promotion of historic sites along U.S. Route 15.

Supporting the organization could help boost tourism to the area, and may help the town in getting grants related to historic preservation, officials said.

‘‘It’s a way to recognize history and at the same time promote the businesses in these areas," Thurmont Commissioner Bill Blakeslee said.

In addition, Frederick County Office of Tourism Director John Fieseler got word on Tuesday that the county will receive a $44,480 national scenic byway grant to market their section of Route 15 known as the Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway. Part of that money will go toward promoting tourism to Thurmont and other areas such as Emmitsburg, Point of Rocks and Frederick along Route 15, in a brochure called ‘‘15 on 15."

Historic areas in Thurmont include The Match House, where the first friction match was created, as well as several houses that have been standing since the early 1800s and the Historic Cozy Restaurant and its Camp David Museum. Visitors to the Catoctin Furnace and Catoctin Mountain National Park and Cunningham Falls State Park also attract tourism dollars to the town.

‘‘We’re always grateful when an organization with national significance such as The Journey Through Hallowed Ground spotlights Thurmont as a focus point of their organization," Blakeslee said. ‘‘...They seem to have significant backing and the support of many members of Congress."

The general purpose of The Journey Through Hallowed Ground is to raise awareness of historic areas and landmarks along U.S. Route 15, said Olwen Pongrace, media contact for the organization.

‘‘It is really an economic development program that celebrates America’s history," Pongrace said. ‘‘It is also about making people feel proud about where they live."

The organization is now working with 15 communities from Pennsylvania through Virginia to put together a travel itinerary for tourists, and is putting together a guidebook highlighting communities as stopping points along the journey.

‘‘It is a total travelling package geared toward families to get in the car and take in the history, and we’re very excited to be a part of this," Thurmont Main Street Manager Vicky Grinder said.

Grinder plans to attend monthly meetings held by the organization to help promote Thurmont as a stopping point on the tour. The organization meets in different communities along the journey each month. Thurmont has offered to host the organization’s meeting in April, Grinder said.

Fieseler said supporting the organization would help Thurmont to draw from tourism that larger areas such as Gettysburg and Monticello attract.

‘‘It’s a great opportunity to partner with other communities and cross-promote, but also to promote yourself as part of a larger product," Fieseler said. ‘‘We can draw people from farther away than might otherwise be coming to some of our smaller communities."

In addition, promoting Thurmont as part of a larger tourism package will make it easier for visitors to navigate through the area, he said. Tourists will be able to get all their information from one source rather than having to stop and get a new batch of information every time they cross a political boundary, Fiesler said.

‘‘The goal is to get folks off of the highway and onto the byway to see the sites that are along the way instead of just zipping through on the highway," he said.

Another primary goal of the organization is to get the entire stretch of Route 15 designated as a National Scenic Byway. The portion of the road that runs through Frederick County already received that designation in 2005.

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