Sunday, May 10, 2015

Record loves Castillo, when will it endorse the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore proposal?


Editorial: Did the fort begat everything 'us?'
Posted: May 7, 2015 - 11:16pm

If we ever needed reminding of where our tourism bread is really being buttered — heritage tourism — data from a recent survey done jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service does a fine job of it. So does Gordie Wilson.

Our two monuments, the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas, together pumped just over $74 million into the local economy in 2014. What was a little surprising from the survey was how close visitation was between the two. The Castillo tallied 761,000 visitors, while tiny Fort Matanzas State Park had 569,000 guests.

In a call to the castillo superintendent, Wilson explained that the numbers at Matanzas are not strictly fort visitation like downtown — and includes visitors who enjoy the 300 acres of waterfront park in addition to the small fortification. But those numbers, to us, remain impressive since visitors are seeking it out rather than it being part of a larger downtown experience — or tour.

What’s significant about the dollars generated by the structures is that so much of it comes from outside the county. It’s tourists who are feeding local tax coffers as well as filling hotel rooms and restaurants.

The study broke down spending by category, though these numbers are national, not local. But we’d imagine there would be little difference. Of that $74 million, 30 percent is spent on lodging, 20 percent on food and beverages, 12 percent on gas and oil and 10 percent on souvenirs and other expenses.

If you total the percentages, there’s 25 percent not accounted for and that, we assume, means spending not generated by visitors, but more locally. Doing the math, visitors to the two forts spend about $56 each. That’s moms and dads and kids — and buses full of schoolchildren from all over the state.

Nationally, visitation was 293 million in 2014, generating $15.7 billion.

But the dollars and the visitors may not tell the whole story or reflect the true legacy of the Castillo de San Marcos.

Superintendent Wilson has an angle of his own. It makes good sense. He wonders out loud whether or not Henry Flagler would ever have stepped foot in St. Augustine or put down his rich roots here had it not been for the presence of the fort.

“It was certainly a curiosity back then,” Wilson said. But it was not a tourist destination. “We, (the NPS) didn’t even have the castillo until 1933,” he said. Prior to that it belonged to the War Department.

Flagler first came to St. Augustine on a honeymoon trip after the death of his first wife in 1881, where he happened to run into Dr. Andrew Anderson. Historians tell us the two began talking and ended up with a vision for a warm and opulent playground for the rich.

So if the castillo did, indeed, at least pique the interest of the Standard Oil baron in St. Augustine, it could be said that “St. Augustine is the town the castillo built.” At least that’s what Wilson imagines. He’s more likely to be right than wrong on that. It’s an interesting notion to ponder either way.

1 comment:

Warren Celli said...

God tourism, founded in Devil corruption, is not the great benefit that the Tourist Factory mouthpiece, the Saint Augustine Wreckit, paints it to be.

Years of "Not in my backyard!" letters attest to this fact (see below). Note the incrementally escalating wealth of the letter writer 'victims' and the increasing wealth of those who seek to destroy their quality of life. It is Xtrevilist trickle up naked cannibalism on parade.

How many of the current victim letter writers have spoken out forcefully against the murderous hijacked government that has illegally and immorally denied opportunity to people of lesser means and created so much homelessness and despair? Yes, you do reap what you sow. Is it not well past time to dust off and restore to the forefront of the public psyche the classic biblical saying; "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."?