Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Essex Heritage Premier Projects, Trails and Sails and the Scenic Byway Updated, and the Final Chapter of the History Provided


First Official Day of Fall

On Wednesday of this week, we will note the changing of the seasons, with the first official day of fall. Based on the early forecast that I saw we might be experiencing temperature in the eighties that day. It is possible that this may be one of the final days of summerlike temperatures and in the not too distant future we will begin to experience cooler days and the real feel of fall, so if your are a fan of summer weather enjoy the change over day as New England fall weather is likely right around the corner,

First Weekend of Essex Heritage Trails and Sails Complete

Speaking of nice weather conditions, the first weekend of the ninth edition of Essex Heritage’s Trails and Sails was blessed with spectacular weather. The hurricane that has been meandering just off the Atlantic coast stayed far enough away that it was not an impediment to any of the planned activities. After the initial weekend it is usually very difficult for us to get a handle on any attendance figures except from word of mouth reports. We do not receive any “official” numbers of the number of participants until the second weekend is complete, but all we have heard unofficially has been most positive. We had several staff people out and about over the weekend, including me, and all of the reports have been encouraging.

My wife and I spent the middle of the day on Sunday in Amesbury and Newburyport and the events we observed and participated in were active and well attended. Essex Heritage has long thought of Lowell’s Boat Shop as one of our premier partners, and in my long relationship with Essex Heritage, I had never visited the site until Sunday. Our visit with shared with about two dozen other visitors that were either part of our tour or the group gathering for the next presentation. The shop is the last remaining operating boat building enterprises still functioning and producing marine products in the area that once hosted many historic dory building yards. The boat shop was founded in 1793 and has been operating uninterrupted ever since. At the peak of their production a large crew of artisans turned out over 2500 dory’s in a single year, and today a single craftsman is turning out about eight to ten of these historic products in any given year. The shop that is located on the banks of the Merrimack River is now a working not-for-profit museum and is a National Landmark. In addition to the world famous Dory’s and Skiffs, the company also produces some decorative word products that certainly might be interesting to seafarers. The young lady that conducted our tour was well informed and did a wonderful job of presenting the long history of this important regional asset to our group.

When we left Amesbury we moved on the Custom House Maritime Museum in the historic port city of Newburyport. That tour of the facility on the waterfront was equally as informative and was even better attended. The forty or more Trails and Sails enthusiasts who participated in that tour were divided into two groups and were treated to a wonderful presentation that outlined the maritime history of this port city. The Maritime Museum also serves as one of the participating welcoming centers for Essex Heritage and their staff was well informed and most helpful to the group. When we completed that tour we headed back home again to enjoy the Sunday presentation of the National Football League game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. In retrospect, as fans of the home team Patriots, we would have been much better served looking for another Trails and Sails event to attend rather than watching the game.

We can only hope that last weekend in the two week event is as pleasant as the one just experienced. In fact, being a little greedy, we are hopeful of two more pleasant weekends after Trails and Sails is concluded, as that period will mark the start and finish of Topsfield Fair week that means so much to this region.

Essex Heritage Scenic Byway Corridor Advisory Group Meeting

Late last week, I attended a most participatory meeting of the Essex Heritage Scenic Byway Advisory group at the Beverly Library. The group that is comprised of community representatives from the thirteen stakeholder communities along the route held another most effective meeting. The current topic up for discussion centered on the creation of a management arm to help focus the work along the Byway in the future. It is clear from the portion of the meeting that I attended that the group most certainly wants to participate in the process of setting a course for the project, but views the past and present work of Essex Heritage as so positive that the group envisions Essex Heritage as the future “driver” of planning for the collaborative efforts to promote this historic roadway. As the fall progresses into very early winter, Essex Heritage will now schedule a series of meetings with interested residents and other parties in each of the thirteen participating communities to solicit viewpoints and opinions to help focus the program in the future. Bill Steelman, the Essex Heritage Director of Heritage Development is most effectively spearheading this effort in addition to his other duties. . Since this project will impact such a large number of communities served by Essex Heritage, we will continue to monitor progress in this planning effort and will keep you all informed as data is gathered and plans are formulated.

Essex Heritage History, Part 9 (Concluded)

From my perspective, I prepare a monthly column that is distributed to the Community Newspapers in this region, write an occasion op-ed piece for the Salem News, and have developed an electronic BLOG that I post help with the general administration of the Commission and assist Mary Williamson in the effort to generate additional local financial support, from both commercial interests and residents of the region. For the last year plus, I have also prepared an electronic BLOG called Essex Happenings and I post entries on the work of the Commission and our allied partner organizations in the region twice each week fifty-two weeks a year. The average posting consists of about one half a dozen items and provides substantial information on the Happenings in the region. In the first year that ended in mid July 2010 I have produced 135 BLOG postings on all manner of issues. Clearly, Mary Williamson and Elizabeth Rankin are primarily responsible for communications to the region, but I consider it part of my responsibility as well, and spent a good portion of my time along with an effort to raise funds as my two primary responsibilities.

Speaking of fundraising, in a previous section of this history, we spoke of how important the work of Congressman Tierney was to our financial success. When funding for the Essex Heritage Area first became available, the Congressman was there for us and in the first years of our existence we were blessed to receive an allocation of funds from the Interior Department through the National Park Service. Those early allocations were for one million dollars each year, and while we attempted to raise additional private funds from the business community and the public, the effort was not as intensive as it has become today. Federal funding in recent years has fallen to just south of $650,000 and so it is imperative that we find other forms of funding and increase revenues to support our work. Those efforts have included the development in 2010 of a financially driven membership program that is starting to bear fruit. The staff has also reached out to our Board of Trustees and created a Development Committee and we have intensified our efforts to raise funds from the business community. We have focused our mission on enhancing the quality of life in this region and are appealing to the business community for funding to help us achieve that goal as our success benefits them directly.

When I retired from Salem Five eleven years ago, I never anticipated that in 2010 that I would still be providing consultancy services to Essex Heritage, but I have found that the role still fits me well and I enjoy the process. I fully expect that as long as my health continues as it is in 2010, that I will continue to serve as long as the Commission is providing resources to this region. Our mission has not changed sine our establishment in 1997, as we strive to preserve, protect and promote the historic, natural and cultural resources of Essex County.

This concludes the ENHC History presentation that has been offered over the last several Essex Happenings BLOG postings. We hope that you enjoyed the presentation and learned a little about the work that Essex Heritage has undertaken over the last decade plus to make this region more livable and enjoyable for al residents and visitors.

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 www.essexheritage.org. 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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