The 2016 Historic Downtown Cleveland Luncheon Forum featured Martha Raymond, National Coordinator for Heritage Areas at the National Park Service. Her presentation “Leveraging Resources for Stronger, Healthier Communities” helped to illuminate some of the ways the National Park Service can continue to assist Cleveland with historic building rehabilitation, trail development, education programs and grants.
In her role with the National Park Service, Ms. Raymond coordinates federal support and assistance for forty-nine Congressionally-designated national heritage areas across the country.
National Heritage Areas, such as the Ohio & Erie Canalway, are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.
National Heritage Areas rely on grassroots, community-driven approaches to heritage conservation and economic development. The development of the Ohio & Erie Canalway is co-managed by two non-profits; Canalway Partners (hey, that’s us) in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition to the south.
These heritage conservation efforts include programming such as Take A Hike, which offers five, free, guided walking tours of five distinct neighborhoods in Downtown Cleveland. Each tour features actors and actresses portraying historic figures from Cleveland’s past.
The National Park Service spurs economic development in several ways. In 2015, tourism to National Parks sites in Ohio created $203 million in economic benefits.
Less-publicized but very impactful economic development tools include the National Register of Historic Places, which helps coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.
Downtown Cleveland has been a major beneficiary of National Park Service historic tax incentives- the program has helped make possible adaptive reuse projects such as the former Cleveland Trust, Downtown Heinen’s, and the Arcade. National Register Historic Districts such as the Cleveland Centre Historic District have created new opportunities for responsible development.
The Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area is increasing its profile in Downtown Cleveland. The 101-mile Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail, the Canalway’s most popular attraction, is on its way downtown. In 2014, Scranton Flats opened and Stage 3, which runs 1.9 miles from the northern entrance of Steelyard Commons to Literary Ave. in Tremont, will soon go to bid.
The City of Cleveland is leading efforts to develop Canal Basin Park, a 20-acre Downtown park which will be Cleveland’s gateway to the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area. The City has adopted the Canal Basin Park Framework Plan to serve as guide to development of the project- outreach and fundraising is currently underway.
The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2016, we want to wish it a happy birthday and thank it for its work to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.
The Historic Downtown Cleveland Luncheon Forum is presented by the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corporation, the Historic Warehouse District, and Playhouse Square District Development Corporation. Past speakers include Mike Lydon, Dr. John Crompton, Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Stacy Mitchell, Christopher B. Leinberger and many others.