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Plantation seeks community's help
The site manager at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation on U.S. 17 North says the state historic site needs the community's help to regain good financial health.

"Become an advocate, know about the site, encourage people to visit, join Friends of Hofwyl," Bill Giles urged a crowded room of stakeholders at a public input meeting Thursday in the visitors center at the 18th century rice plantation.

"With partnerships, we can work together with area businesses and organizations in ways that are mutually beneficial. I encourage you to utilize the educational opportunities here. They're not just for children."

Like others around the state, the historic site is operating on a reduced budget. Once open six days a week, it is now open only three - Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources cut Howfyl's budget, as well as that of other state sites, to help make up for the revenue shortfall accompanying the Great Recession.

Giles explained his Direction 2015 plan to work toward self-sustainability, which basically calls for drawing more visitors to Hofwyl. It includes everything from organizing tour groups with local churches to bringing friends from out of town.

Giles said the community can help it reach its goal of 50 percent self-sustainability. Just volunteering with Friends for Hofwyl earns the group $2 per volunteer hour logged, which goes directly back to the site's needs, he said.

"Largely because of reduced hours, we're only about 26 percent self-sufficient right now," he said.

"Historic sites just don't have the same revenue opportunities as parks do."

Giles talked about his suggestions for opening the site to new ideas, including offering or hosting special programs, events and weddings. By adding back three part-time staff and reverting back to original hours of operation - Tuesdays through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - he feels the site can increase programs and income.

Giles also would like to draw more travelers off Interstate 95, a matter of minutes from the site via Ga. 99.

"If we got just one-tenth of 1 percent of that traffic (every year), we would be more than self-sufficien," he said.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, an average of 46,450 vehicles traveled I-95 in Glynn County daily between 2008 and 2011, when the economy was down.

"We generate over $1 million in economic impact each year here, and that's with the reduced hours," Giles said. "I took a visitor's survey and 40 percent of visitors (at the site) said this was their primary stop, but an additional 40 percent stayed in area hotels and 75 percent ate at local restaurants."

Giles also proposes an increase in admission price within reason. Current admission is $7 for an adult.

"I don't want to charge too much, but one of the comments we get is how reasonable our rates are. Some people even say we should charge more," he said.

"We owe it to the people of Georgia to charge enough to make ends meat but make it reasonable."

For Giles, it's all about saving Georgia's history.

"Sites like this are very much the soul of our community. This area breathes history like no other area I've ever been," he said. "When the wind blows, the Spanish moss waving in the live oaks, it's trying to whisper secrets to you of the past."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at slundgren@thebrunswicknews.com, or at 265-8320, ext. 322.



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