Cecil County Community Works to Leverage Heritage Resources for Economic Development

A crowd gathers at Rodgers Tavern in the 1930s.

One Cecil County community is working on leveraging its cultural heritage resources to increase tourism, historic preservation and economic development.  At the last town board meeting in Perryville, the Mayor and Commissioners considered joining Preserve America, a government initiative that provides federal grant money for restoration of historic sites and development of programs to draw tourists into the nation’s old towns.  In a report published in today’s Cecil Whig, it was noted that $10-million is available annually for certified communities.

Of course to become a certified community, there are a number of criteria that have to be met.  The local government, for example, has to demonstrate its committment to the preservation of the community’s heritage assets.  That is very appropriate and we hope they hold towns very accountable in order to make sure the committments are present in the local environment.

As officials in some Cecil County municipalities work to bring economic vitality back to the old town centers there must be a vision followed by the implementation of a systematic strategy.  It could be that the focus is to create a large center of employment on our Main Streets so that at lunch time there are workers strolling downtown for shopping and meals.  But in Cecil County that idea doesn’t seem to be too practical, especially in today’s climate and as the larger employment centers move outside the old towns.  But the idea of leveraging ones history and culture so that a Main Street has a unique ambiance and can compete in a different way with Walmart is one that still seems to have potential when applied diligently.  That is provided enough resources have been protected and remain in a community.

Notice how some towns in Cecil County have effectively leveraged their old buildings and sense of place, communities like Port Deposit, Chesapeake City and North East. Too, take a look at the larger region and see which downtowns are successful.  While there will be a range of contributing factors, places like Chestertown, Easton, Havre de Grace and Kennett Square draw on that unique sense of place and those heritage resources to a great degree.

Congratulations to the Mayor and Commissioners of Perryville for considering the opportunity to draw on one of the river town’s resources.

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6 responses to “Cecil County Community Works to Leverage Heritage Resources for Economic Development

  1. What are the business taxes like in Elkton? Are they higher than just going out of town and setting up shop? Maybe someone should start an incentive program to generate a few restaurants in town. If you get restaurants (especially with outdoor seating) you start to draw foot trafic which will draw other stores. It seems like there is enough parking (as long as the meter maids play fair). Just think if that train station comes to fruition what would happen to that part of town (I may even open a donut/coffee/newstand shop there!)

  2. Perryville has some interesting cultural resources resources like the Rodgers Tavern and the V.A. Hospital. Kudos for them using the resources to leverage some monetary influx into the burg.The town also has the advantage of being a transportation hub located at the northeast most terminus of the MARC rail line. The Susquehanna River and broad views of Susquehanna Flats, Elk Neck peninsula and the Upper Bay make the town and the surrounding area very picturesque. Ditto for Havre de Grace. People are attracted to the area because of the scenery. This is not the case with Elkton. You make a good case for attracting some type of business to downtown Elkton to anchor the local economy. I sure wish some medium sized office based business would move to town! Elkton needs to do more to preserve what old buildings are left in the town. Another couple downtown” blight reduction” projects and Elkton will be the largest self-governing parking lot in the state.

  3. General Wahn:

    We could certainly use a destination coffee shop or eastery in Elkton so I think everyone would welcome the opening of such a place here. It’s something that is needed in order to provide a foundation for building up the downtown. Judy’s Java used to fill that role very well, but once it closed there really wasn’t a place to take visitors.

  4. Silence Nogood:

    Oh silence nogood, that blight reduction program and our parking lots, you’re treading on a sensitive subject there.

    As for your comment about the need for creating some type of anchor, I fully agree. The town needs to figure out what that anchor is considering the current economic climate, the loss of the 200 county office workers and where we stand with our surface parking lots and remaining old buildings. A serious open minded evlaution of those elements and more will help identify the appropriate solutions.

    I think Perryvile has something here for its anchor.

  5. Ah Mike, while a coffee shop is great for the morning crowd, you need decent small restaurants, even BYOBs that will be open at night. Something that will draw people in to town. You get the night foot trafic and then all of the sudden there is a specialty book store, and then an ice cream shop, and then another coffee shop, then a jazz club, then a clothing specialty store, then a cigar bar,and all of the sudden Elkton’s not just lawyers offices and bail bond shops.

  6. General Wahn:

    I agree fully. Look at Port Deposit, four quality eateries in a place with a population of 700. And everyone of them makes the place a destination, drawing from a crowd market far beyond Cecil Co.

    I still miss the upscale coffee shop. These days when you have to meet someone, the options are rather limitied since Judy’s Java Closed unless you want to go to Dunkin Donut on the highway.

    Still you’re absolutely right, it requires upscale specialty places to make it really work. I’m surprised too that they aren’t working that strategy to in Elkton.

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