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.