Monday, March 15, 2004 at 10:27 AM
We've all been to places that really know their local history - whether cultural or natural history - and that do a wonderful job of interpreting that story. Communities in New England come to mind, and obvious places like Jamestown, Monticello, and Harper's Ferry, all places that have played a singular role in U.S. history. But there are places like that in our own backyard, places where local events have played a major role in shaping the course of our nation. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry fought and won the naval War of 1812 just off the coast of Lake Erie. The cities of Cleveland, Sandusky, Hudson, and Oberlin - among others - played a signature role during our nation's struggle for the abolition of slavery and civil rights. And Lake Erie itself continues to be a focal point for issues of transportation, energy, unique natural resources, and environmental rights. But how can we turn our stories into something that will attract visitors -- local people or outsiders who will spend money to see, hear, taste, and experience what we have to offer? Is this something only big cities can do or can it also be made to happen in neighborhoods and smaller communities? What does it cost to entice visitors and what's the payback? Is what's nowadays being called "heritage tourism" really a viable option for economic development?
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