Saturday, January 23, 2010

South Carolina Government Short Changes Heritage

S.C. not spending on Civil War anniversary
By Brian Hicks - The (Charleston) Post and Courier

For the past few years, the state of Virginia has put up to $2 million annually into planning, programming and advertising for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Kentucky has put at least $1 million into its efforts, while Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas are refurbishing historical markers, sprucing up battlefields and planning for the expected tourism bonanza.

But in South Carolina - where the war began and still permeates the landscape - state officials have put almost no money into events for the sesquicentennial. And even though the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession is less than a year away, that's not likely to change any time soon. Some people fear the state is going to miss out on some needed tourism dollars.

Secessionists may be honored

A group seeking to commemorate the 170 South Carolinians who signed the ordinance of secession nearly 150 years ago wants to place a monument to recognize the historic event on the grounds at Patriots Point.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans' South Carolina division is proposing to install a nearly 12-feet-tall stone memorial as the centerpiece of a 40-foot by 40-foot landscaped plaza at the state-owned tourist attraction.

Designed by Pelion artist Ron Clamp, the rectangular structure would be made from blue Georgia granite and would measure five-feet wide on each side.

Now, state and local officials are developing a plan to expand tourism in the Charleston area and want suggestions from the public. A hearing is being held Thursday at Santee Cooper headquarters in Moncks Corner.

"It's not about white or black, or blue or gray - it's about green," said Randy Burbage, South Carolina division commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "I think we're missing out on a huge economic opportunity because of all the tourism."

Right now, there are conferences scheduled for December (the anniversary of secession) and April 2011 (the anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter). Heritage groups are planning re-enactments, commemorations and other programming. Many groups say other events are in the planning stage but are not ready to be announced.

Still, next to Virginia - which has produced a DVD documentary for school children - South Carolina's dance card seems a bit light.

"We're doing a lot with no money," said Robert Rosen, a member of the state's Sesquicentennial Advisory Board and president of the Fort Sumter/Fort Moultrie Trust, which is planning Lowcountry events.