Stonehenge gets multi-million dollar grant to spruce up area around prehistoric site

Stonehenge, Britain's prehistoric circle of stones, will receive some infrastructure help in the future. The area around Stonehenge, in addition to the visitors center, will see improvements.

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    In this 2007 file photo, visitors are dwarfed by the Stonehenge monument in southern England. Stonehenge is getting a multimillion-dollar grant that conservators say will help restore some dignity to a World Heritage site blighted by busy roads and cramped facilities.
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Stonehenge is getting a multimillion-dollar grant that conservators say will help restore some dignity to a World Heritage site blighted by busy roads and cramped facilities.

English Heritage said Friday that it now has about two-thirds of the money it needs to revamp the area around the prehistoric circle of stones, although the group acknowledged the improvements probably wouldn't come in time for the 2012 Olympic Games, when hordes of tourists are expected to descend on the site.

Built between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is one of the world's most recognizable sites. But the monument's vista is blighted by two busy roads, one of which runs right by it.

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Stonehenge's visitor center is also inadequate, with vehicle traffic spilling out onto the grassy area nearby during peak periods. There's only one outdoor refreshment kiosk to serve the nearly 1 million visitors who see the site every year.

A 25 million-pound ($40 million) plan to redo the site was derailed when the cash-strapped British government moved to curtail public spending earlier this year, but English Heritage continues to seek money from other sources.

Friday's 10 million-pound grant is being awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which uses money raised through the national lottery to refurbish museums, parks and archaeological areas.

English Heritage spokeswoman Renee Fok says the cash, plus other money, puts the group two thirds of the way to its goal.

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