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In the wake of a record-breaking year, the Homestead National Monument of America prompted more than $3.4 million in local spending a result of Homestead tourism in 2012.

The figure, which came from a recent National Park Service study, said Homestead attendance increased 48 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, thanks to special events held at the Homestead.

2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862, which gave individuals up to 160 acres of land and went on to give away 10 percent of all U.S. land in it’s 123 years in effect.

To commemorate the occasion, the original document signed by President Abraham Lincoln was on display at the Homestead, in addition to a lengthy schedule of other events, displays and promotions for the special anniversary.

Homestead Park Superintendent Mark Engler said the anniversary celebration helped the Homestead set a new attendance record in 2012.

“2012 was the first time that the monument had over 100,000 people visit it,” Engler said. “The 103,000 who came to the community made an economic impact of $3.4 million. I hope regional business continues to enjoy the benefits that are tied to the monument and people who come to visit us.”

Engler said the $3.4 million figure is largely tied to money spent on lodging, food and other items.

Homestead numbers are at a record high, but the park has been operating with a 13-percent budget cut since 2008, with an additional five-percent cut potentially in the near future as national park funding cuts loom.

Bill Demuth, president of Gage Area Growth Enterprise (NGage) economic development group, detailed how the Homestead promotes local business, and draws more benefits by being the only national park in the area.

“It’s an asset because it gives you a destination point and continues to add to the attractiveness of the area,” Demuth said. “You look at tourism as a positive impact on the economy and the economic development impact through the year. (The Homestead) can bring money and visitors here, and those are things we want to continue to explore in the future.”

While the Homestead generated more than $3 million for the local economy, Engler said the park provides an even greater benefit to the community and surrounding area.

“In addition to the economics associated with it, I think the community pride, the notoriety and that tie to the community is also a very positive thing,” Engler said. “Of course, the direct economics that come from people traveling to the Monument and the money that’s tied to that is also a very good thing.”

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Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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