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Towards a bi-national heritage tourism strategy for Western New York and Ontario's Niagara Region

October 23, 2001: Niagara Parks Commission, Niagara Falls, Ontario
October 24, 2001: Castellani Art Museum, Niagara University, NY

The Niagara River runs through the center of a great bi-national region whose natural and cultural heritage offers extraordinary opportunities for cooperative work on economic, environmental, and community development with the potential to transform the region. These opportunities are yet to be fully appreciated, but there is an intuition emerging across the region that something truly spectacular can happen in Niagara. More important, people are working to realize this intuition through initiatives in environmental repair, urban redevelopment, marketing and promotion in the arts, historic preservation and interpretation, recreational development, and much more.

The Waterfront Regeneration Trust and the Urban Design Project are preparing a two-day forum for October 23 and 24, 2001 to bring together the many participants in this diverse effort to discuss a bi-national heritage tourism strategy on which all might work together. The idea behind the strategy is simple. If we invest in the places and stories that make the region unique, link them to each other, promote them to the world, and leverage one of the premier tourism attractions anywhere - Niagara Falls, itself -- we can tap a large and growing global tourism market to the resounding benefit of local communities, environments, and the bi-national regional economy.

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The forum is intended to build on much good work already going on in the region, to showcase those efforts, and to bring forward future initiatives for discussion. Highlighted projects will include an emerging proposal for a Welland Canal park and parkway linking communities from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, and ongoing work toward the development of a National Heritage Area under the auspices of the U.S. National Park Service. Rethinking Niagara will also help inform ongoing work on bi-national cooperation and development initiated by New York Governor George Pataki and Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

The forum will also attempt to present a broad and compelling vision for the region organized around -- and made comprehensible by -- five broad heritage themes, which were developed in previous discussions under the banner of Rethinking Niagara. These themes are The Landscape -- the lakes, river, escarpment and falls, and the greenways and trails that link them, and the nature and history that make them one; War, Peace and Freedom -- honoring the history of the borderland - conflict, friendship, cooperation, and difference; The Wealth of a Region -- including the stories of industry, power, canals and the heritage of trade, transportation and manufacturing; The Bounty of Nature -- celebrating the region's wine, food, flowers, and cuisine; and Enterprise in the Arts -- linking festivals, theatres, galleries and museums, institutions of learning, and architecture in celebration of culture, the arts and the humanities.

Our discussions in October will be enriched by the contributions of scholars and heritage practitioners under the auspices of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, as well as the stories of leaders from across the region about projects that are already helping to make the emerging vision a reality.

This event is intended for those in the private sector, public sector, or "third sector," with an interest in envisioning the bi-national region as a whole, and shaping policy, programs, and projects for maximizing the potential of heritage development for the bi-national Niagara region.

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