Cumberland Times-News

Local News

March 20, 2014

Public gets look at future plans for Canal Place Heritage Area

State requires officials to update objectives every 5 to 10 years

CUMBERLAND — Officials with the Canal Place Heritage Area held an open house Thursday to allow the public to offer input on a five-year plan being developed for the area.

Held at the Allegany Museum, the event featured displays at six tables with a variety of experts available to take questions from interested visitors.

Created in 1993, the area around Canal Place was Maryland’s first certified heritage area. Since then, the number of heritage areas in Maryland has grown to 12.

“It preserves the heritage and history around the C&O Canal Terminus basin area,” said Rita Knox, a ranger with the National Park Service.

Knox, who took questions at the event, works at the visitors center inside the Western Maryland Railway Station.

“Having Canal Place here has brought focus on the canal and been an asset to the downtown,” she said.

The Canal Place Heritage Area includes the downtown mall area, Washington Street, Canal Place and the portions of Wills Creek and the C&O Canal National Historical Park that fall within the Cumberland city limits.

 State officials request that a comprehensive management plan be created for the heritage areas about every five to 10 years. The plan is to show the future objectives for the heritage area and how it can best promote the region.

“It’s where we are going to take the heritage area in the next five years,” said Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director of Canal Place.

Known as the Heritage Area Management Plan Update, it’s currently in draft form.

“The heritage areas tend to foster partnerships. They also serve to promote economic development,” said Richard Hughes of the Maryland Heritage Area Authority.

Placing the material and data into a comprehensive plan has been the job of Mackin Engineering of Pittsburgh.

“The plan asks what can be done to make this place more attractive,” said Bob Genter, an associate with Mackin.

Genter said the plan looks at what can be preserved, enhanced or improved to bring more visitors into the area.

“Whatever we can do to draw more people, will draw more dollars into the area,” said Janice Keene, a Canal Place board member.

Visitors to the event made future suggestions for the heritage area. Officials placed the comments on a board for viewing.

Suggestions from guests included better and consistant signage, working closer with state and local government, more specific action steps and the development of strategies everyone can agree with.

Another open house is planned for next winter with a finalized management plan expected in the spring of 2015.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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