POTT: We need to preserve our historical resources

Sep 21, 2012

These components are complemented by larger natural and man-made landscapes, especially along the waterfront, which further define the cultural and economic identity of our community.

The historic buildings and structures that remain span more than a century and a half. Each has a story to tell, providing a sense of place that is critical to a quality of life valued by both residents and visitors alike.

As time passes, however, these resources can become increasingly threatened by new construction and other forms of development. Many have already been lost to time. It is of great importance that we work to identify these surviving resources, and, for the public good, establish policies that will protect them into the future.

In order to meet the challenges of maintaining the integrity of our built and natural environment, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum has proposed the development of a master plan for historic preservation in Grand Haven. By banding together with the Historic Conservation Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Authority, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other area organizations, we are seeking to not only preserve our historic places, but also to market them in a way that will reap the rewards of heritage tourism and the many other economic benefits this kind of program can offer a community.

As a guide, the museum is proposing the adoption of an historic preservation manual that has been effectively applied in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Drawing on this successful example, we hope to establish a plan that will integrate historic preservation into municipal policies and community development. It is intended that this model be designed to potentially serve the preservation needs and interests of other municipalities in the Tri-Cities area as well.

The opportunities of heritage tourism

The Tri-Cities offer a wide range of sites and activities that would appeal to the typical heritage tourist. The Tri-Cities Historical Museum is working with the Grand Haven Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to develop experiential themes that will appeal to visitors, and evaluate cost-efficient ways to market our cultural and heritage assets to attract visitors. Studies have defined the typical heritage tourist with some of the following findings:

— Heritage travelers are found in all age groups, are more educated, family-oriented, and have higher household incomes than the average tourist.
— Cultural travelers are most interested in experiences where the destination, its buildings and surroundings have retained their historical character.

— More than half of all heritage travelers emphasize an interest to visit museums and gain an educational experience when traveling for leisure.

— Cultural travelers tend to spend more time and money during community visits, travel more frequently, and will travel farther to get the experience they seek.

— Heritage travelers are more likely to participate in culinary activities sampling artisan food and wine, visiting farmers markets, and enjoying unique dining experiences in the communities they visit.

— Heritage travelers are dedicated shoppers at museum stores. They also shop outlets, galleries, unique/authentic retail, and traditional retailers and brands.

We look forward to marketing the Tri-Cities as a destination for cultural and heritage tourism, and receiving all of the benefits that this form of branding can offer. We will keep you posted on our progress. There is much more to come!

— Guest column by Ken Pott, executive director of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum.
 

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