First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors

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First Ladies National Historic Site, which was established on October 11, 1980, has a prime location in Canton, Ohio, yet attracts scarcely more than 10,000 visitors a year. Why is that, and does it really matter?

There are lots of national parks, including not a few historic sites, whose annual attendance is low enough to raise eyebrows. These units are in the National Park System despite visitor appeal factors, not because of them. We justify their existence as national parks because of their intrinsic resources values, which may be nature-based, cultural/historical, or some combination thereof. These resources are nationally significant and must be preserved. The federal government should do it, and the National Park Service should be the managing agency. That's the basic argument.

Does it matter if visitation is so low that it borders on embarrassment? Apparently not. Consider the case of First Ladies National Historic Site.

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