09/19/04 — Civil War trail seen as tourism enticement

View Archive

Civil War trail seen as tourism enticement

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on September 19, 2004 2:05 AM

Another route is being taken to bring tourists to Wayne County, and it involves promoting something that has been here for ages.

Local and state officials continue to discuss marketing a historical "trail" through Wayne County known as the Civil War Corridor.

State Sen. John Kerr of Goldsboro has met with City Manager Richard Slozak, County Manager Lee Smith, Travel and Tourism Director Marlise Taylor and several members of the Old Waynesborough Commission to discuss the idea.

There are many sites in Wayne and surrounding counties that could be on the trail, including the Bentonville Battleground, the site of the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, Willow Dale Cemetery, the CSS Neuse site in Kinston and Fort Fisher at the coast. Although they are well-known sites, they have not been marketed together as one attraction, said Ms. Taylor. The sites resemble a trail when connected on a map.

The corridor would connect the sites, and the hope is that the development and promotion of these sites will increase tourism throughout the county.

"I think this is going to be a big economic boost," said Kerr, who attended the Wayne County Historical Association's board meeting Tuesday.

Ms. Taylor said the corridor would be marketed along with the corridors in Virginia and Maryland, which should give it some added publicity.

Two new state positions have been funded by the Legislature for the statewide program, she said. State officials are still working on the job descriptions.

Ms. Taylor hopes the employees will be based in Wayne County, possibly at the Waynesborough Historical Village's Visitor Center at 801 U.S. 117 S. Bypass in Goldsboro.

Decisions are still being made regarding where they will be stationed and what their specific jobs will be, but she said they will promote Civil War tourism for all of eastern North Carolina and develop other sites that are historically significant.

Kerr said the positions will deal with archives and history, which fall under the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Ms. Taylor said that within the next few months there should be two Civil War signs, one at the Wayne County Museum and one near the site of the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge. They are large signs with photos, text and a map, she said.

The Travel and Tourism Office will be in charge of maintaining the signs, which will be paid for with a matching grant that the N.C. Department of Commerce received. Similar signs are already being placed in other counties, she said.

Randy Sauls, a Goldsboro native and historian, applied for the grant and is in charge of developing the text for the signs.

Ms. Taylor said the sign at the museum will have information about the significance of the railroad and the one on the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge will be located close to the bridge, which is near U.S. 117 Bypass and the county's old Genoa sewer plant.

The battle occurred on Dec. 17, 1862, when Gen. John G. Foster led 12,000 Union soldiers to burn the railroad bridge just below Goldsboro in present-day Mar Mac. He was opposed by Confederate Gen. Clingman, who had about 1,600 men.

The Union Army wanted to destroy the railroad the Confederates used to transport supplies up the East Coast. The railroad bridge was burned by the Union soldiers, and they spent two days tearing up the track, Sauls said.

Sauls estimated that around 175 Confederate soldiers died during the battle, and fewer than 100 Union soldiers perished.

Kerr said the new U.S. 117 Bypass will provide the chance to really promote the corridor. The bypass is scheduled to be completed in 2006 and will extend from Wilson to N.C. 581 in Goldsboro.

"We have a real opportunity to do some advertising," he said.

He said they must get elected officials and business leaders behind it. "There are a lot of communities ahead of us on this."

Ray Swinson, a member of the Old Waynesborough Commission, said that City Manager Richard Slozak proposed a rest stop at the village that would entice traffic off the new bypass. While visiting the rest stop, people would be attracted to the village.

Slozak said the city and county could jointly build and maintain the rest stop, and the Old Waynesborough Commission could continue to maintain the village and any other expansion in the village, such as an RV campground.

Swinson recommended that the commission define the role it will play in the development of the corridor and discuss the possibility of a rest stop. The commission voted to continue to study the corridor idea.