Study could determine memorial’s future

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A three-year federal study will determine whether the privately run National D-Day Memorial in Bedford should be taken over by the National Park Service.

National D-Day Memorial Foundation has been struggling financially. The recession has caused a drop in attendance and a decline in donations of $100 or less.

The foundation recently announced that the memorial will remain open during the winter, but it laid off 11 of 24 full- and part-time employees.  The organization has an annual operating budget of $2.3 million, with less than half of its revenue coming from ticket sales.

Because of a measure included in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, the National Park Service will conduct a study to determine whether it should assume the memorial’s operation.  Only 5 to 10 percent of new candidates are accepted into the park system.

“It’s a long process, and there are any number of deal makers and deal breakers in this kind of a review,” says William McIntosh, president of the foundation. He noted, for example, that the New River in Giles County qualified for designation as protected wilderness but the Park Service recommended against the move because of lack of public support.

A takeover by the National Park Service “could be an ideal situation,” McIntosh says, “though we really won’t know this until the study is completed.” Another option would be to create an endowment to sustain the memorial’s operation.

The fallback, McIntosh says, is to “keep doing what we’re doing — going it alone and being as frugal and prudent in our operating decisions as we can be and continuing to execute our mission for as long as we can.”

The memorial, opened in 2001, commemorates the June 1944 Allied invasion of France during World War II. Of the 35 Bedford soldiers in the invasion, 19 were killed in the first wave and another four died within a week. The community suffered the highest per capita casualty rate in the U.S. 

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