Flight 93 National Memorial visitors increasing

By Vicky Rock Daily American

More than 300,000 people visited the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek Township between Jan. 1 and the end of October.

Barbara Black, chief of interpretation for the National Park Service, told the Flight 93 Advisory Committee on Saturday that this figure can be compared to 238,000 visitors in 2011.

“We expect that visitation will reach one-half million from the dedication on September 10, 2011, to just before Thanksgiving this year,” she said. “We also expect over 1,000 bus tours. That will be an increase of 500 over last year. It’s been a busy year, a busy fall.”

To meet the needs of the visitors, over 9,300 volunteer hours will be contributed. About 14,000 calls have been made to the cell phone tours of the park, with 5 minutes the average length of time per call.

National Park Service Superintendent Jeff Reinbold said the homework done last year to prepare for the visitors paid off.

“We had numbers of visitors like we’ve never seen before,” he said. “It was an incredibly smooth summer.”

One thing that helped was the new videos given to bus companies that visitors watch before arriving at the site. That saved a lot of work for the rangers.

Those increased numbers of visitors have also meant an increase in financial contributions. King Laughlin, National Park Foundation, said that since the last commission meeting in July, more than $1 million has been contributed to the campaign, bringing this year’s total donations to $4.3 million. There are nearly 120,000 contributors. The number of donations exceed the number of donors by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.

Paul Murdoch Architects, of Beverly Hills, Calif., submitted draft construction documents for the visitors center, the learning center, the flight path walkway and additional parking area. Final construction documents are to be submitted in January 2013. This part of the memorial is to be built in 2013 and to be opened in September of 2014. The exhibit planning and design is to be done at the same time.

Patrick White, president of the Families of Flight 93, said that organization owns four properties that have not been transferred to the National Park Service. Commission chairman John Reynolds said he frequently reads about other National Park Service sites that are experiencing problems that they would not have had if the sites had acquired easements for surrounding properties.

White — who is an attorney specializing in land development issues — said the goal is to avoid uses that would be deemed inconsistent with or inappropriate to the national memorial.

“An essential element is to do something that heals the land,” White said.

White said that the relationship with Will Hollier, a liaison between the organization and Congress, has ended because all the federal appropriations requested have been received. Hollier will continue in his efforts with the design team for the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 gold medal.

A moment of silence was held in memory of the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.

The 2013 commission meeting dates were set. They are: February 9, May 4, July 27 and November 2.

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