August 28, 2013 not only was the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” March on Washington, it also was the one year anniversary of the kickoff of the Path Through History project. That event was attended by hundreds of people from throughout the state and heralded a bold vision of the role of the history of the state in New York’s future.
I have the paperweight handed out to commemorate the event, and two slick, glossy, color booklets distributed for the event. I even have an unused napkin from the Executive Mansion with its image as a souvenir of the event. What I don’t have is any hope for the project of great potential and little achievement.
In the year since that event, has Governor Andrew Cuomo even visited an historic site?
In the year since that event, has Governor Cuomo traveled a Path Through History?
He has paddled; he has fly fished, he has graped, but has he been an example to the tourist community of the historic sites to see in New York?
During President Obama’s recent trip to New York he visited the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls. He did not visit the Harriet Tubman House or Seward House in Auburn as had been hoped, instead visiting a local high school. He did however travel on Route 20, one of the historic roads mentioned by several New York History readers.
Here is a simple way for the Governor to show he is committed to the Path through History project. The Governor should go to the Path Through History website and create a path through history, just as he wants tourists to do. He doesn’t even have to actually visit the sites, he just needs to show it can be done. He can pick any region. He can pick any theme. Just do what he advocates real people doing to get them to travel to New York. Let’s make it easy. How about an Albany path? That should be easy; he already knows the area.
How hard should it be to show after one year and spending millions, that the Path project really works for tourists? Wouldn’t that be a great photo? The Governor showing at the website creating his staycation in the Great State of New York.
One of the members of the Executive Board of the Path project, told me it didn’t have the resources to do what it was supposed to do. My recommendation about using the $1,000,000 pledged at the kickoff not to scatter among sites but to hire people for each of the ten regions was meant in part to address this shortcoming.
A second member of the Executive Board of the Path project sent me an unsolicited email to say that governors do reinvent the wheel rather than build on what has already been achieved. This was also addressed in a recent post by Andrew Alberti who pointed out what has already been done. There seems to be no room in the Path Through History projects for paths that already exist.
A third member of the Executive Board of the Path project sent me an unsolicited email sharing their bewilderment. This mirrors the comments previously posted here at New York History by Brian Howard of the Oneida Historical Society who withdrew from the project and Suzanne Izaksen, Region 3 APNYS coordinator who complained of being out of the loop. Since there is not much going on the Hudson Valley Region, there isn’t much to be out of the loop on. To the best of my knowledge no county executive in the region has embraced the Path project, nor have any county Tourist Departments, nor have County Historians initiated any events, programs, or meetings to foster the development of paths within their own counties. It’s as if the project doesn’t exist.
So until such time as the Governor demonstrates that the Path Through History project is alive and well there is no point in taking it seriously (he obviously doesn’t). Yes there will be an allocation of the $1,000,000 promised last August 28 and that will provide some photo-ops at dozens of sites throughout the state, but that is for show, not substance and will not represent an investment in the history community infrastructure or organization.
My advice is to focus on the Regional Economic Development Councils and try as best you can to organize, cooperate, and collaborate at the local level, because there isn’t any direction or leadership at the state level.
Finally, to those who don’t like what I am saying: show us the paths you’ve created this past year as part of the Path Through History project.