NIAGARA FALLS – A trip to visit Niagara Falls could be much more than a stop to view the world famous waterfalls.
Plans to develop new tourism in the “Falls to Fort” region and extend tourists’ length of stay and overall spending were announced at a media event Monday in Niagara Falls, hosted by the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, the Tourism and Convention Corp. and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.
Rep. Brian Higgins announced $300,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior which will be used towards these tourism initiatives.
He unveiled the “Discover Niagara” map and guide, which provides a detailed list of historic sites and attractions in Niagara and Erie County. The guide is modeled on National Park Service guides in other U.S. parks.
For families, the guide can be coupled with a Junior Rangers booklet, which encourages children, ages 7 to 12, to discover the area’s history, culture, heritage and natural resources.
The Junior Ranger guide was developed by the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area to introduce children to the area’s heritage: the Underground Railroad, Native American history, the natural phenomenon of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Gorge and the Niagara River. Children will also have the opportunity to learn about the role of hydroelectric power, and more about local historic figures.
Along the way kids receive pins and badges which they can attach to their National Heritage Area lanyard.
“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,” said Higgins.
“Federal funding for our efforts to boost heritage tourism is essential,” said Sara Capen, executive director of Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
She said since 2008 her group has awarded $80,000 in grants to organizations including Old Fort Niagara and Historic Lewiston, which was used to develop historic sites and programs which give visiting families “something to do after visiting the Falls.”
Grants this year will benefit Artpark, the Niagara Falls Public Library, the Museum of disAbility, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers, and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.
The Niagara Falls area is rich in history and natural resources and has had significant historical connections to early Native Americans and European exploration, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Underground Railroad. In addition to being a national landmark, the Falls have also been a site for hydroelectric power and associated industries.
The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area was enacted by Congress in 2008 and completed its management plan in 2012, becoming an independent non-profit organization in 2013. Legislation authorizes funding through 2023.
There are 49 National Heritage Areas across the United States. The mandate of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area 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.