Congressman Brian Higgins announced several new tourism initiatives Monday in conjunction with the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. and City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. The media event took place at the Niagara USA Visitor Center on Rainbow Boulevard in Niagara Falls.
Higgins announced $300,000 in fiscal year 2015 funding for the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, which comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior. This appropriation will help to develop new heritage tourism opportunities in the "Falls to Fort" (Niagara) region, and will extend tourist length of stay and total spending.
Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Executive Director Sara Capen said, "Federal funding for our efforts to boost heritage tourism is essential. Since 2008, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area has awarded over $80,000 in grants to local organizations like Old Fort Niagara and historical Lewiston, funding which develops historic sites and programs that give visiting families something else to do after visiting the Falls."
Capen presented this year's round of grants to recipients from Artpark & Company, Niagara Falls Public Library, Museum of disABILITY History, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.
Higgins also unveiled the "Discover Niagara" map and guide, a detailed list of historic sites and attractions in Niagara and Erie counties that is modeled on National Park Service guides to other parks. Coupled with the "Jr. Ranger Booklet," which encourages children ages 7-12 to discover the area's history, culture, heritage and natural resources, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area is providing visitors with the information they need to make their stay in the region more exciting and enriching.
The "Jr. Ranger" book will help participants find thematically related sites in the National Heritage Area and nearby, where they will learn specific knowledge pertaining to the history in the Niagara Region and then complete a corresponding activity. Participants will have the opportunity to explore the Underground Railroad, Native American history and culture, the natural phenomenon of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Gorge and the Niagara River, the role of the portage, hydroelectric power, geology, conservation and local historical figures Harriet Tubman, Nikolai Tesla, Betsy Doyle and Homan Walsh.
Once they have completed the required number of activities, they can receive thematic pins and an official Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Junior Ranger Badge to attach to their NHA lanyard.
"The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area designation recognizes the natural and historic treasures in Niagara Falls and makes the federal commitment to preserving and promoting this area," Higgins said. "There is so much to love about the greater Niagara Falls region and we want to share that message with new tools to provide a reference to explore the many great treasures in the region. We congratulate today's awardees and thank the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area for their work each and every day."
Enacted by Congress in 2008, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area completed its management plan in 2012 and became an independent nonprofit organization in 2013. There are 49 National Heritage Areas across the U.S. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area's mandate is to develop heritage tourism in the City of Niagara Falls, Town and Village of Lewiston, Town of Porter and Village of Youngstown, as well as thematically related sites in Niagara and Erie counties.
The enabling legislation (PL 110-229) authorizes funding until 2023. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area is charged with implementing its management plan and long-range interpretive plan over that time period in collaboration with key partners such as State Parks, the NTCC, USA Niagara, Old Fort Niagara, the New York Power Authority and the many historical organizations in this region.
Rich in natural and cultural resources, the Niagara Falls region has significant historical associations with American Indians, early European exploration, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Underground Railroad.
The Falls have long been an important site for hydroelectric power and ancillary industries. Together, these elements have contributed to Niagara Falls' importance in the American imagination, as a national landmark and a symbol of the American conservation movement. The National Park Service recognized the national historical and cultural significance of the Niagara Falls region in a 2005 report.