Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Mr. Dan Rice

President and Chief Executive Officer , Ohio and Erie Canal Way Coalition

Testimony of

Daniel M. Rice
President and Chief Executive Officer
Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition
Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway
Akron, Ohio

Before the

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Subcommittee on National Parks
United States Senate

June 22, 2006

Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, my name is Daniel M. Rice.  I am the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, a regional private non-profit organization working on the development of the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway from Cleveland to New Philadelphia, Ohio in northeast Ohio.  I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee today to offer testimony in support of S. 1721, a bill to amend the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996 to extend the reauthorization for certain National Heritage Areas.

I am here today also to testify as a general witness on behalf of the eight other National Heritage Areas included within S. 1721.  These National Heritage Areas, the class of 1996, were all authorized together in the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996.  These National Heritage Areas have charted new territory in the way the federal government works to conserve America’s great heritage.  These nine National Heritage Areas have proven that the National Park Service conservation strategy can be a partnership that involves state, local and private partners with each party’s investment hinged to support the others.  These nine National Heritage Areas have been reviewed by the Government Accountability Office and have successfully demonstrated that National Heritage Areas promote the National Park Service ethic of resource conservation, and cultivate stewardship for our national resources without impacting private property rights.  While I will be providing some limited information about the work of some of the National Heritage Areas, I respectfully request that the Subcommittee keep the record open so that those National Heritage Areas can submit testimony themselves.

Within S. 1721 are eight other National Heritage Areas, including Augusta Canal National Heritage Area (Georgia), Coal National Heritage Area (West Virginia), Essex National Heritage Area (Massachusetts), Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area New York), Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (Pennsylvania), Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area (Iowa), South Carolina National Heritage Corridor (South Carolina), and Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area (Tennessee).  Over the past ten years, I have had the privilege and benefit of working with each of these Heritage Areas and experienced the unique heritage and resources of the eight other National Heritage Areas.  Collectively, these nine National Heritage Areas are successfully promoting resource conservation, celebrating cultural traditions and stimulating community and economic development. 

The Ohio & Erie Canalway is a regional and national treasure that celebrates the unique natural, historical and recreational resources along the Ohio & Erie Canal from Cleveland to New Philadelphia in northeast Ohio.  Working in partnership with our private, local, state and national partners, we are developing a 101-mile multi-use recreational trail, conserving hundreds of acres of natural areas, preserving historic structures and stimulating over $270,000,000 of community and economic development activity.  For every $1 of federal seed funding, we are leveraging over $12 of private, local, and state investment.

As one of the 27 Congressionally-designated National Heritage Areas, the Ohio & Erie Canalway is a successful example of the national heritage area concept of the conservation and interpretation of nationally significant resources through local management and investment.  Some examples of our resource conservation accomplishments include:

• Development of 73 miles of the multi-use recreational Towpath Trail from Cleveland to New Philadelphia, Ohio.  To date, over $53,000,000 of private, local, state and federal resources have been invested in this regional greenway.  Over 3 million users utilized the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in 2005.

• Implementation of four county trail and green space plans with over 400 miles of connecting trails and 1,000 acres of green space.

• The relocation of the world headquarters of Advanced Elastomers Systems from St. Louis, Missouri to Akron, Ohio, along the banks of the Ohio & Erie Canal.  Local developer Paul Tell invested $25 million dollars in the former BFGoodrich building and generated over 300 new jobs in downtown Akron.

• Over 160,000 volunteer hours on National Heritage Area related programs and projects, and over 250,000 participants in educational programs.

• Preservation and restoration of historic canal resources including, the Mustill House and Store, Henniger House, Zoar Hotel, Zoar Town Hall, Jackson Township School and the Richard Howe House.

• Local developer Frank Sinito invested over $13 million dollars in the mixed-use development, Thornburg Station, along the banks of the Ohio & Erie Canal and Towpath Trail in Independence, Ohio in Cuyahoga County.  Through a combination of upscale restaurants, offices and shops, Thornburg Station has generated over 50 jobs and is a destination Trailhead along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

• Designation of the Canalway Ohio Scenic Byway as a State and National Scenic Byway. 

• Extending the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to the City of Akron and the City of Canton.

• Creation of a Communications Plan, including a comprehensive Interpretation Plan, Signage Plan and Marketing Plan.  In April 2006, we introduced the first Visitors Guide for the Ohio & Erie Canalway, in partnership with our Convention & Visitors Bureaus.

• Provided technical assistance and planning support for the four main Canalway Center Visitors facilities.  The first of our facilities, the Stark County Canalway Learning Center is scheduled to open in 2007.

Through the development of public/private partnerships, we are exporting the National Park Service ethic of resource conservation to thousands of citizens, cultivating stewardship and investment of the unique resources and most importantly, creating a legacy for future generations. 

All of these accomplishments would not have been possible without the designation, as a National Heritage Area, by Congress in 1996. 

The National Heritage Area designation provides an organized regional structure and forum for the promotion of resource conservation, interpretation and development of the natural, historical and recreational resources along the Ohio & Erie Canalway.  With the development of the Corridor Management Plan, we obtained the investment, commitment and support of all of our private, local, state and federal partners for the Ohio & Erie Canalway.  All of our private, local, state and federal partners, including the National Park Service, endorsed the Corridor Management Plan and committed their resources to the completion of the 20-year plan. 

For the first three years of our designation, we completed our resource inventories and developed the Corridor Management Plan.  From 2000 to 2006, we established the identity for the Ohio & Erie Canalway and worked on the three main regional linkages of the Towpath Trail, Scenic Byway and the Scenic Railroad.  Through the hard work and dedication of our over 90-plus partners, I am proud to tell you that we are ahead of schedule and are poised to move into the second phase of the development of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.

According the Corridor Management Plan, approved by the Secretary of the Interior, over the next six years, we will work on the following items:

• Complete the key regional linkages, including the Towpath Trail, Scenic Byway and Scenic Railroad.
• Expand the connecting trail network.
• Market the entire Ohio & Erie Canalway and its journeys.
• Assist the Canalway Center project partners to complete construction.
• Continue coordination with the National Park Service for program involvement.
• Develop Corridor-wide programs and mechanisms for their continued operations.

As you can see, Mr. Chairman, we are at a very critical crossroads in the development of the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway, as well as the other eight National Heritage Areas and that is why we are requesting reauthorization of these nationally significant projects.  Just as much of the past accomplishments of the nine National Heritage Areas have been due to the participation and involvement of the National Park Service, much of our future success depends on the continued partnership and participation of the National Park Service.  As the Corridor Management Plan for the Ohio & Erie Canalway states, “Alliances and regional coalitions are critical to the long-term success of the National Heritage Corridor as well as to the accomplishment of short-term projects.”

Over the past ten years, the other eight Heritage Areas have experienced similar success in the promotion of resource conservation and development. 

From FY 1997 through FY 2006, the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in western Pennsylvania has received $8,645,000 in National Park Service funding through this authorization.  This funding, which Rivers of Steel is required to match, has raised more than $45,000,000 through the National Heritage Area to match the National Park Service funding, with an additional $35,000,000 being leveraged with the partner organizations or local governments in the seven county National Heritage Area.  This investment has resulted in more than 200 heritage development projects that are either ongoing or have been completed in the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.

Since 1996, the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor has successfully completed over 100 large-scale projects, and is currently working on over 40 more, while also providing programming and major marketing efforts.  The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor serves as a catalyst and an incubator for heritage tourism development across the state of South Carolina.  The efforts within the Heritage Area led to the development of numerous statewide initiatives, including the South Carolina Farmer’s Association and the South Carolina Artisans Consortium, and placed an emphasis on protecting and celebrating the diversity of cultures in South Carolina such as the influence of Native Americans, African and Caribbean heritage.

The Augusta Canal National Heritage Area in Georgia preserves promotes and celebrates the region’s rich history, heritage, culture and natural resources relating to the Augusta Canal for the benefit of current and future generations.  Since designation in 1996, some of the major projects completed include, construction of a nine-mile multi-use trail along the Augusta Canal, construction of an award-winning Interpretive Center in an abandoned textile mill, and renovation of the 1875 gatehouse, locks, four historic buildings and the canal head gates.

I know without reauthorization of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, we will be unable to fulfill the commitments and obligations outlined in the Corridor Management Plan, and it could undermine the successful public/private partnership strategy at the local level.  I trust that without reauthorization, the other eight Heritage Areas contained within S. 1721, will not be able to fulfill their Management Plans and responsibilities. 

If our federal partners abandon the partnership and their commitment to the Management Plans, the private, local and state partners may take the same approach and withdraw their commitment and support.  Once this occurs, the public/private partnership is dissolved, the foundation for the regional resource conservation strategy is destroyed and the previous investment of private, local, state and other partners will be at risk.  Continued federal investment is necessary to maintain the momentum and provide critical seed funding to important components of the Management Plans.

All of the National Heritage Areas included in S. 1721 were established with 10-year Management Plans to guide the work of the National Heritage Areas for the next 10 years.  This was not meant to be a limitation on the life of the National Heritage Area, only a limitation on the timeframe of the plan.  At the end, or near the conclusion of the Management Plan, the National Heritage Areas were charged with the responsibility to chart out its next 10-year strategy.  National Heritage Areas were established as long-term conservation tools to protect America’s heritage in places where sole federal government ownership, i.e., units of the National Park Service were not feasible or practicable.  National Heritage Areas need to be reauthorized in order to fulfill their Management Plans.  Selecting a pre-determined termination, as it has been suggested after 10 years, will cause more harm than good. 

Reauthorization of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, and the other eight National Heritage Areas, allows us to complete our Management Plans, fulfill our commitments to the communities and develop the necessary funding diversification and self-sustaining strategies.  In essence, reauthorization enables the National Heritage Areas identified in S. 1721 to move towards sustainability and a decreased dependence on the National Park Service for long-term funding.

From 2012 to 2020, the Corridor Management Plan for the Ohio & Erie Canalway recommends the development of funding diversification and self-sustaining strategies to maintain the quality of the experience of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.  Although we are not scheduled to address this issue until 2012, in 2006, we began an internal review of our operations and initiated conversations with our local foundations, corporations, governments and state agencies regarding funding diversification and self-sustaining strategies and models.  Building upon the recently completed studies of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and the Delaware and Lehigh Canal National Heritage Area, it is our goal to begin the implementation of our funding diversification strategy within the next six years.  With the continued participation of the National Park Service, we will develop a comprehensive funding diversification and self-sustaining strategy that protects the investment of private, local, state and federal resources, continues the promotion of resource conservation, while stimulating community and economic development in the region.

Mr. Chairman, now, more than ever, we need to maintain our partnership with the National Park Service and renew our shared commitment to the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway, and the eight National Heritage Areas listed in S. 1721.  National Heritage Areas successfully promote and export the National Park Service ethic of resource conservation without significant permanent investment.  Through the National Heritage Area designation, we are building permanent community partnerships and developing funding diversification and sustainability strategies for the conservation of nationally significant resources.  Most importantly, National Heritage Areas expand the reach of the National Park Service and allows the Service to affect the lives of ordinary citizens, in urban areas and townships, across this country in extraordinary ways, without the burden and responsibility of ownership and long-term maintenance by the National Park Service.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I believe that National Heritage Areas are an innovative approach to resource conservation and they represent the future direction of the National Park Service in the 21st century.  That is why I strongly urge your support for the passage of S. 1721 so we can continue our successful partnership for resource conservation and the celebration of our nationally significant resources.  Working together, we are creating legacies for future generations.

I would like to express my thanks to you, Senator Thomas, for your outstanding leadership and vision regarding National Heritage Areas.  Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony regarding S. 1721 before your Committee, and I am happy to answer any questions that you, or other members of the Committee might have.