Monday, August 2, 2010

Lighthouses, Heritage Area Funding, Danvers Cable, Salisbury Visitor Center Active


Lighthouses of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island and Essex County

I spent the day yesterday on a day trip with members of my local church parish on a trip to Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay in particular During one part of the trip we were treated dot a boat trip around the bay, where the focus of the trip were the Light Houses that are predominant in that section of New England we viewed ten of the twenty lighthouses in Rhode Island during the trip. We are truly blessed in this part of the country to have such a wonderful resource as our coastline, the ocean and these wonderful beacons that have lighted the way for sailors for generations. I enjoyed the sights and the commentary that outlined the important maritime history of that region.

The trip and the viewing of the lighthouses hit close to home for me, as in Salem Sound we are making progress on our long range plans to make the lighthouse on the easterly end of Bakers Island a destination for visitors in the future. Bakers Island that is a part of Salem is located off the coast in Salem Sound and for the most part is a private island with many summer homes owned and occupied during the summer season by residents of our region. We have been and always will be most conscious and careful to preserve the privacy of those homes and their residents regardless of what plans we develop in the future. The only portion of the island that is semi private is the portion of the island that housed the US Coast Guard light station. A couple of years ago The US Coast Guard designated the light house of Bakers Island surplus and provided that facility along with other buildings to Essex Heritage. We are currently maintaining the area, and are planning in the future to have that site available to host guided visitor tours to help complete the telling of the story of the maritime history of the Essex County region. We are working with our partner the National Park Service to develop tours that will be historically accurate and at all times preserving the privacy rights of our neighbors on the island. We in Essex County are very fortunate to have several lighthouses in the region in addition to the Bakers Island Light including a couple in Salem, one in Marblehead and the famous twin lights in Gloucester plus others that all add to the charm of the region, but most importantly adds to the wonderful historic fabric of this historic part of the country. We are blessed in this region with sixteen of the fifty such beacons in this state. That is a substantial number when one considers that there are only seven hundred and fifty lighthouses in the entire United States.

Heritage Area Funding Clears a Major Hurdle in House

I recently received an e-mail alert and newsletter from the National Trust for Historic Places that indicated the United States House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee had reported out a finding that would preserve preservation funding on the next federal budget. In the recent past there was some concern that all of the many national preservation program funding would be eliminated completely. Many preservation-based organizations including Essex Heritage have worked very diligently to make sure that this action did not occur. That preservation funding extension would include a level funding finding for the National Heritage Area Program. While this action is only a first step, and the budget will have to clear the full house and then the Senate and receive approval by the Executive Branch, it is a very important first step for the Heritage Area program and Essex National Heritage Area in particular. We are buoyed by the news and will keep all of you current on the issue as the budget works its way through the House of Representatives. Our Executive Director, Annie Harris recently attended a “listening” session with the National Park Service, and at that event she had the opportunity to provide some information to them on our activities and how we are working to find additional revenues to help support our programs beyond the federal funding

Danvers to Offer Broader Cable Access in New Location

It may not be a case of regional cooperation, but in the Town of Danvers the two private companies that offer cable television services to that Town has entered into a cooperative venture. For many years Comcast provided cable services to the town, but in the recent past, Verizon was also licensed by the Town to offer the same services. Now the two companies are joining together to build a new and improved cable access facility for the Town in a new location adjacent to the recently restored Town Hall. That new facility with its expanded capabilities will certainly help with general Town communications and more will offer more opportunities for local access programming to be created. The opportunity to develop more local programming will allow more organizations in Town the chance to air programs that highlight their activities that will focus on their mission

Maria Miles Visitor Center Open and Welcoming Visitors

It is most positive that on August 2nd, as we move into the last month of the traditional New England summer that in addition to the National Park Service Visitor Center in Salem that the other major regional visitor center in Salisbury is also back in full operation. The Maria Miles Visitor Center operated by the North of Boston Convention and Visitor Bureau (NBCVB), after a rough spring start is operating from 9 to 5 each day and visitors are flocking into the center for information and directions. Julie McConchie the Executive Director of North of Boston reports that the entire region is showing positive signs of visitor growth. One of the most valuable parameters of success is the hotel/motel occupancy rate and that barometer is up 17.5% over the previous year.

That is most positive news for the entire region. We are pleased that the NBCVB program will be in full operation for the upcoming for the next two months as September and October have always been wonderful months for the region as thousands of visitors arrive in this region to sample fall in all of its glory in New England. In addition to the regular travelers who arrive here to sample the changing of the seasons and the spectacular foliage in this region, we have Halloween in Salem, the Topsfield Fair and other fall festivals to draw people to the region. The CVB has been a wonderful partner for ENHC and we were recently advised that they sent along a story to Travel and Leisure Magazine about the Essex Heritage Scenic Byway that will be drawing residents and visitors alike for many years to come.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts or any questions you may have at We are always striving to make Essex Heritage work as effectively as possible and your input and suggestions are always welcome. We can always provide more information and better communication, and one of the goals of these postings on Essex happenings is to provide that opportunity. Thank You. Tom Leonard

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