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Heritage area panel gets seven nominees Will manage efforts on regional tourism

Three professors and a tourism executive are among the first seven nominees to a 17-member commission that will manage a new federal heritage area in the region.

Nominees for the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission also include a former Niagara Falls city administrator, a former Thruway Authority commissioner and a prominent Youngstown volunteer.

Officials who fought for the federal designation hope it will bring a new national focus to regional tourism.

"This, for the first time, is going to bring the National Park Service into a major role here in the Niagara region," Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster said.

"I think that's appropriate because this is an asset of national significance. The Niagara is important to the United States of America, and this is a recognition of that for the first time."

The federal commission will have five years and up to $15 million to develop and implement a plan to manage the new Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

In a letter to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the commission would work to increase tourism and boost the local economy while protecting the region's national resources.

"Too much of the New York side of the border is marked by aging infrastructure and blighted land," Schumer wrote. "All too frequently, visitors spend far more time on the Canadian falls, while barely visiting the New York side. We need to reverse that trend."

Schumer said the National Park Service has estimated that the management plan for the new heritage area could help attract 140,000 new visitors to the region each year.

The heritage area includes the City of Niagara Falls and the villages of Youngstown and Lewiston, as well as any other "thematically related sites" in Erie and Niagara counties designated in the management plan, according to federal legislation that created the commission.

"The fact that we will be listed as a national heritage area, that should have a great benefit for all of us," Lewiston Mayor Richard F. Soluri said. "It's going to focus on not just Niagara Falls, but the entire region along the gorge, the upper river and the lower river."

The 17 commissioners are to be nominated by local, state and federal representatives, and appointed by Salazar. So far, those nominations are:

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, nominated former Niagara Falls City Administrator Bill Bradberry and Thomas A. Chambers, associate professor of history at Niagara University.

Bradberry, a Niagara Falls resident, is chairman of the city's Human Rights Commission.

Chambers recently has been involved in a landscape interpretation project at Fort Ticonderoga and has served as the university's liaison to Niagara Falls for efforts to commemorate the Underground Railroad.

Schumer nominated Chris Glynn, a Niagara Falls native and president of the Maid of the Mist Corp., and Robert H. Borgatti, professor of digital media and coordinator of multimedia production at Niagara County Community College.

One of the earliest advocates of a Niagara Falls heritage area, Borgatti produced "Fading in the Mist," a 1997 PBS documentary that helped call attention to conservation and historic preservation issues at Niagara Falls.

Dyster said he plans to nominate Lillian S. Williams, a University at Buffalo associate professor and former chairwoman of the African American studies department.

Williams is also a member of the state's Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission in Buffalo.

Soluri has nominated Jeffrey D. Williams, a partner in Lewiston Management Group and Niagara Falls Properties who, until last year, had served on the State Thruway Authority board.

Youngstown Mayor Neil C. Riordan nominated Tim Adamson, a Youngstown resident who has served on the village Planning Board and other volunteer posts.

The 10 other commissioners will be nominated by Gov. David A. Paterson, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Tuscarora Nation and the director of the National Park Service.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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