Tourism cares for VC, and pays for it |

Tourism cares for VC, and pays for it

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer

In May 2007, there could be more than 300 people cleaning up the historic sites of Virginia City.

The Comstock-era town, which is now a popular tourist destination, is in the running to host the 2007 Tourist Cares service project.

Tourism Cares brings tour operators, students and industry professionals to one area every year for a massive restoration and renovation effort. Not only are 300 people focusing on preserving historic tourism treasures, but they also are shopping and staying in the area, and flying home to tell all their clients and friends about it.

Virginia City is up against historical Pennsylvania cities Valley Forge and Gettysburg, as well as a city on the Gulf Coast. VC conservation may not be as sexy as cleaning up the Gulf Coast – which Tourism Cares tackled last year – but Lisa Schmiemann, Tourism Cares director of development, said the town of about 900 is a location that the nonprofit group would typically choose to aid.

The organization was never meant to handle disaster relief until 2006, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed many tourist/historical spots.

“Our mission is to support and enhance tourism-related sites for the future,” she said this week during a familiarization tour in VC. She and Executive Director Bruce Beckham traveled from Boston to lunch at a Victorian home and tour famous spots needing care.

While at a lunch for the Tourism Cares reps, tourism executive director Susan Sutton mentioned that the historic buildings could disappear if people stopped caring about them.

That rang true to Schmiemann, who said she would look forward to staying in a Victorian home if the group does decide to come here.

In addition to the Biloxi, Miss., project, Tourism Cares also visited Mount Vernon in 2005, New Orleans in 2004 and Ellis Island in 2003.

Potential work sites in VC would be the cemeteries, Piper’s Opera House, the Storey County Courthouse and the Fourth Ward School.

“Virginia City fits the bill,” Schmiemann said.

She wants the tourist professionals to contribute to historic preservation, in return receiving a unique and life-changing experience.

And if that happens, VC will receive a lot of publicity. The Virginia City tourism authority is seeking a promise of hotel rooms and donations for the possible influx of visitors.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.