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Heritage Commission to discuss Niagara River management plan

An ambitious management plan to focus on visitors' experiences along the Niagara River will be discussed during a public meeting of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission.

The commission will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Youngstown Civic Center, 240 Lockport St.

Jeff Dawson, a consultant with Dawson Associates, will discuss the identity of the Niagara Falls Heritage Area, which extends along the river from the western boundary of Wheatfield, through the City of Niagara Falls and the towns of Lewiston and Porter to the mouth of the river at Lake Ontario.

The commission's management plan is designed to promote regional tourism involving the National Park Service.

It is working with planning consultants hired by the National Park Service, including John Milner Associates Inc. and Heritage Strategies LLC.

The plan, adopted in September, blends an advisory role with an active focus on projects to provide high-quality interpretation, visitor experience and community engagement.

In some cases, the commission itself may become an active developer of some projects.

Thomas A. Chambers, the Niagara University history professor who is chairman of the commission, said, "It could be 10 or 15 years before our goals are met."

Congress can appropriate up to $1 million a year for the Heritage Area Commission, up to a total of $15 million.

Once the commission receives its first appropriation, it may begin looking for early demonstration projects to invest in with local partners, according to a meeting announcement distributed by the National Park Service.

The commission will fund these projects through a competitive grants program or through agreements with partners.

The commission, made up of community leaders nominated by federal, tribal, state and local officials, held its first meeting in December 2010.

The National Park Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.