GETTYSBURG, Pa. — The Gettysburg National Military Park announced Monday that it will institute a ban on competitive events like footraces, effective Jan. 1, 2022.
Park officials said the ban is being put in place because "competitive races do not foster an understanding of and appreciation for park resources, have no direct association with or interaction with park resources, and result in unacceptable impacts to park resources, visitor experience, and visitor safety," according to a Frequently Asked Questions list on the park's website.
The ban does not apply to non-competitive events, park officials said, because “local community members and other visitors, while traversing park roadways on foot or bicycle in a non-competitive environment, are able to take the time to understand and appreciate the historic and commemorative landscape, stop or step off the roadway to allow buses and vehicles to pass safely, do not ring cowbells or shout encouragement, and do not interfere with the ability of other visitors to experience and enjoy the history of the hallowed grounds and solemnity of the park,” according to the FAQ on the park's website.
In addition to the ban, park officials also announced changes to the park's hours of operation.
Beginning this month, the park, the National Cemetery, and the Eisenhower National Historic Site will be open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes past sunset, the GNMP said in a press release.
Prior to this month, hours for the park's grounds have varied by season. Most areas were open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April to October, and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. over the winter.
There was a proposal in place to open and close the park at sunrise and sunset, but the proposal was modified so that visitors could "continue to engage in traditional activities such as watching sunsets, photography, and recreational activities after work while at the same time achieving the park goals of protecting park resources and visitor safety,” according to the park's press release.
The modifications to the proposal were in response to public comments, park officials said.
The park annually reviews its rules and regulations and allows for public comment to announced changes. Public comments for the proposal to change park hours and to institute a ban on competitive events were allowed from Jan. 19 to Feb. 17, according to the press release.
The park received 230 written comments during that period.
Park officials provided a response to those comments on the GNMP website.
Races have occurred on non-park routes in the past, and “Adams County provides numerous alternative routes that would be more appropriate for hosting organized, competitive recreational events and still promote visitation to the Gettysburg area and support the economic viability of local businesses,” according to the responses to public comments on the GNMP website.
“Organized, competitive recreational events occur during periods of high visitation. When combined with non-competitive events, which are considered an appropriate park use, they result in use of park roadways for special events on up to 100% of weekends between April and October,” according to the comment responses on the website.