I recently received an invitation to attend a meeting of the Hudson Valley Smart Growth Alliance on behalf of Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) and The Advocacy Coalition of the Hudson Valley to address the question: Is there a HUDSON VALLEY Regional Agenda? (The meeting will be held on Friday, June 15, 2012 from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Student Union Building of the State University of New York at New Paltz) [Link].
Part of the invitation read “The conference is intended to engage a broad range of groups and individuals, with a variety of strongly held interests and priorities, to consider whether the Hudson Valley Region can generate and advance a shared agenda for legislative action. Specific areas relevant to New York History are; Planning as a Region: How Have We Worked Together? Doing Business with a Regional Focus &; Our Region as a Tourism Destination: How Do We Market the Region?”
It also provided information on the sponsors and organizers of the session:
The Advocacy Coalition of the Hudson Valley (ACHV) was formed in 2010 by a group of community leaders interested in developing and advancing regional thinking to promote a broad, shared public policy agenda targeted on legislative action and particularly focused on Hudson Valley needs and priorities.
The Hudson Valley Smart Growth Alliance is a regional partnership of diverse interests including environmental, land conservation, and economic development organizations, builders, realtors, tourism officials, and planning agencies who have come together to build consensus on smart growth principles and promote local and regional solutions to sprawl.
Here is how I responded to this invitation:
I regret that I will not be able to attend your important program on June 15 since I will be in Niagara Falls for the New York State History Association annual conference.
I am particularly interested in the area of cultural heritage tourism. As one who has created teacherholstels/historyhostels in the Hudson Valley, I am well aware of both the cultural heritage resources in the region as well as the challenge in getting cats to march. While the Big Apple and Niagara Falls are destination points in their own right, many of the places in between including in the Hudson Valley are not save for people in the immediate vicinity. For example, Albany has the “Partnership for Albany Stories,” a recently formed collaborative effort borne of the realization that individually they are not enough of attraction and of the necessity to collaborate.
The same may be said for every county in the Hudson Valley Region. If we are to go beyond counting IBM and Pepsico business meetings and family gatherings as tourism, then we need to work together to develop and promote a message as to why someone including a family should want to visit the Hudson Valley, a county in the region, or even a municipality. The county history programs I organized or initiated last year represented one attempt to bring together all the constituents of the county heritage community in part to develop a group that could collaborate. The lack of county history conferences this year even in counties celebrating (Putnam) or preparing to celebrate (Dutchess) anniversaries is simply one example of how we are not working together as effectively as we need to.
A perfect example is the article in The Journal News on May 24 just after your notice. The article entitled “View to a thrill: Hudson River Art Trail expands to Westchester with sites in Hastings and Croton.” The Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education has had programs at The Thomas Cole House, the Cropsey home in Hastings, and Olana which is not mentioned in the article although Frederic Church is. Such programs can be thematic on Hudson River Art or geographical such as “A Day In Hastings” which includes Cropsey home. The proximity to the train station enhances the cultural heritage tourism potential. Such programs don’t just materialize out of thin air; they require work.
Turning to the issues you raised in your email:
Is there a Hudson Valley Regional Agenda? No, but there should be one to promote cultural heritage tourism from the first human settlers here to the challenges of the 21st century in remembering our past to build for the future.
Can New York’s most dynamic region annually generate and advance a shared regional agenda for legislative action by state government?
We should also be asking ourselves what we can do ourselves.
We don’t need state action to have dynamic county historians who promote cultural heritage tourism.
We don’t need state action to have county historians and tourist departments work together to promote cultural heritage tourism.
We don’t need state action to take advantage of existing events such as the Ramble or NYS Heritage Weekend to create coordinated programs that can be marketed statewide, nationally, and internationally.
We don’t need state action to develop regional organizations that can promote the history and culture of the region…but it would help because otherwise who would organize it!
We do need state support to promote anniversaries that are of national significance.
We do need state support to promote education in local and regional history so all residents develop at stake in preserving the heritage of the communities in which they live.
Thank you for your time and I wish I was here to attend the meeting. I look forward to the results.
Needless to say, although it does need to be said, the same questions, issues, and challenges apply to the other valleys and regions in the state. It would be useful to know what other regions are doing because SIZE MATTERS and so as not to have to reinvent the wheel. Considering all the change in the air economically and educationally, it is a shame the New York History community isn’t better organized to be part of the discussions.
Peter Feinman founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a non-profit organization which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers, public programs including leading Historyhostels and Teacherhostels to the historic sites in the state, promotes county history conferences and the more effective use of New York State Heritage Weekend and the Ramble.