CULTURAL RESOURCE RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT PRIORITIES

 

By

Jim Brangan of the Lake Champlain Basin Program

and

Arthur B. Cohn of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

 

Provided to the Prioritorization Meeting on Saturday, October 9, 2004

(note that these priorities are not presented in order)

 

Analysis of the Cultural Heritage Tourism Contribution to Economic Development

While tourism at cultural heritage sites obviously benefits the area economy, hard data about demographics or economic impact (i.e., employment, sales tax income, purchase of supplies and services from the community, derivative income from tourism) is lacking. A study to detail the contribution of cultural heritage resources to the economic vitality of the Basin is essential to putting the value of these resources into complete perspective. This information should be used in future regional economic development plans. Baseline data about cultural heritage tourism should be collected, including: visitor demographics, how visitors heard about sites, what sites they are going to, how much they are spending, how long they are staying, what they want out of the experience, what else they are visiting in the area, and what characteristics of the Basin they value.

 

Analysis of this data would result in appropriate marketing and promotion strategies and provide objective information about the role of cultural heritage tourism in the economy of the Basin. The Lake Champlain Cultural Heritage Tourism Survey and Marketing Plan, based on 2,565 completed surveys, was completed in early 1997 and generated important data on the users of historic sites. An economic analysis of potential income generated by heritage tourism conducted by the National Park Service in 1999 indicated that future heritage resource-related tourism development offers tremendous economic potential in the Lake Champlain Basin. Using these studies and additional information about local community interests will encourage a coordinated strategy to support cultural heritage tourism development. 

Identify a Coordinated Strategy for Regional Cultural Heritage Tourism Efforts

Several ongoing regional initiatives focusing on cultural heritage, recreation and tourism—the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission, Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Commission, Lakes to Locks Passage, the Lake Champlain Byway, Lake Champlain Birding Trail, Lake Champlain Bikeways, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and others—are all operating in the Champlain Valley.  Each of there groups is working toward the same goal: sustainable economic development, but varying gaps of communication exist.  Coordination is limited and potential is not met. Some efforts of these groups are independently duplicative, creating confusion among stakeholders and the public while expending scarce financial resources ineffectively.  The situation should be evaluated by an independent entity that can provide implementation steps for enhanced coordination among these groups.

 

Comparative Analysis for the Champlain 400th Anniversary

The Quadricentennial of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival to the Lake will occur in 2009.  The Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission of New York and the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Commission of Vermont were created through legislation in recent years to commemorate the 400th anniversary.  It has been suggested that the 300th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival was the beginning of cultural heritage tourism in the Champlain Valley.  Sixty thousand people came to the celebration in Burlington on July 8, 1909—one year after the first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line in Detroit.  President Taft toured Lake Champlain with the ambassadors of France and England and other dignitaries during the celebration week’s festivities.  Fort Ticonderoga was refurbished for the anniversary.  Newspapers across the country covered the anniversary. 

 

Similar milestone anniversaries have occurred since 1909.  Many of the modern commemorations, such as the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, Jamestown 400th Anniversary, and/or the Vermont Bicentennial can be models for the Champlain Quadricentennial.  These recent efforts should be analyzed for scope, approach, economic impact and overall effectiveness.  A comprehensive study on modern commemorations would assist the Vermont and New York commissions on planning and implementation for the Champlain Quadricentennial.  

 

Museum Development around the Basin

 

The collection of above-water historic sites lends itself to a more coordinated marketing and user approach to Senator Jeffords’ Heritage Corridor concept.  In addition to the existing historic sites, a number of new initiatives are now in various stages of development.  Support for the increased availability of interpretive centers will significantly benefit the Champlain Valley.  New initiatives are currently under way at the former Plattsburgh Air Force base in Plattsburgh, New York.  This campus has recently seen the opening of the first phase of the Battle of Plattsburgh museum, which holds great promise for expansion and for putting this significant national event in perspective and providing access to the information to the public.  The Champlain Valley Transportation Museum has also opened an exhibit within the air base complex and the Clinton County Historical Museum has expressed an interest in having a presence at the base.  The development of a comprehensive cultural interpretive campus at the former Plattsburgh Air Force base would be a great addition to the existing network of historic sites.

 

Since the year 2000, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has built a satellite campus in Burlington, Vermont.  They have developed a working shipyard at the historic King Street Ferry Dock, and have recently leased historic Perkins Pier and established it as the home port of the new canal schooner Lois McClure, which when not traveling is berthed at the pier.  In addition a comprehensive exhibit about the evolution of commerce on Lake Champlain as seen through the evolution of Burlington Harbor has been installed in a previously vacant City building on Perkins Pier.  Developing a permanent cultural resource interpretive presence on the Burlington waterfront will be a priority for cultural resource managers.  In addition, the new and ongoing efforts to examine the feasibility of converting the ruins at Fort Montgomery at Rouses Point as an historic site should be encouraged.  Providing public access to historic Crab Island and the lighthouse located at Bluff Point on Valcour Island should be encouraged.  Support for other appropriate regional museum and interpretive centers is deemed a valuable addition study for the museum requires additional research focusing on demographics and facility design.

 

Develop and Implement a Management Strategy for Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserves

Lake Champlain contains one of the best-preserved underwater cultural heritage collections in North America. Advances in marine survey technologies have allowed many sites not previously located to be found. This has added pressure to develop a management regime around these extraordinary time capsules. One response has been an ambitious Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (Lake Champlain Maritime Museum) project to survey and inventory the entire Lake.

 

Documentation:

Completing the Lake Survey was an extraordinary milestone in the study and management of Lake Champlain’s underwater cultural heritage, but completing the survey did not finish the task or take advantage of the extraordinary potential that now lies in front of us.  These newly discovered sites, along with other sites that have been previously discovered, will have the potential to yield vitally important archaeological information, significantly enriching our understanding of the past.  The task of documenting Lake Champlain shipwrecks should be a high research priority.

 

In addition to the nearly complete underwater survey and the need to document the collection, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has produced underwater historic site management studies for the states of Vermont and New York.  It has also helped to develop an expansion plan for the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve System for the Lake Champlain Basin Program.  The unique potential of developing underwater historic sites to provide economic, recreational, interpretive, and stewardship opportunities is not fully utilized.

 

Currently, the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve System (LCUHPS) is a bi-state endeavor financially supported and administered by the Vermont Department of Historic Preservation.  The preserve system has eight sites—seven in Vermont waters and one in New York.  In addition, the City of Plattsburgh recently received a grant to develop three dive sites in Cumberland and Treadwell bays. It is anticipated that these sites will become part of the LCUHPS, but long-term management of the New York sites has yet to be determined.  As the number of developed underwater sites grows, the need for a centralized management entity increases.  The roles of various New York agencies with varying jurisdictions—including the New York State Museum, Office of General Services, Department of Environmental Conservation, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Secretary of State’s Office and local municipalities and coordination with existing Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserves—needs to be addressed in a comprehensive management plan.  

 

Lake Champlain Underwater Artifact Amnesty Program

With the advent of affordable SCUBA gear in the 1960s, divers began removing historically significant artifacts from Lake Champlain illegally.  Unfortunately, besides being illegal.  The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has made great strides over the past 15 years in educating divers on low-impact diving that leaves wrecks undamaged and their artifacts on the lake bottom. This education has also led to a greater appreciation and enhanced stewardship of the lake’s shipwrecks by the diving community.  While most veteran divers now understand the implications of artifact collection, many of these people still retain artifacts for fear of legal ramifications. 

 

The Four Corners area of the U.S. has recently completed an amnesty program for the return of Indian artifacts taken from the region.  The program had varying success. Many human remains were recovered, but a minimal amount of folk art was returned.  The program’s coordinators contributed this to a once legal, active market for native artifacts   and the span of time that artifacts were collected, which, in many cases, was generations ago.  The relatively recent removal of Lake Champlain’s artifacts allows for a more complete recovery including detailed information on where each artifact was collected. 

 

A significant amount of preparation is required to establish a successful artifact recovery program in the Champlain Valley.  Background research for enabling federal legislation would be necessary.  A process for artifact recovery, documentation, and curation along with outreach efforts for publicizing the program would need to be established. 

 

Develop and Implement Cultural Heritage Resource Management Plans

Bi-state management plans for each major category of cultural heritage resources on the shores and in the waters of Lake Champlain are needed, and should focus first on those resources that are particularly threatened. These management plans would include: a) criteria for selecting priority heritage resources; b) consistent policies for protecting them; c) guidelines for county and town protection efforts; d) recommendations for building staff capacity at state, regional, and local levels and within nonprofit organizations devoted to land and resource protection; e) mechanisms for providing technical assistance to and building positive relationships with landowners, communities, nonprofit organizations, and other resource protection and economic development agencies; f) improved levels of compliance with federal and state historic preservation laws.

 

Create a Basin-wide Cultural Heritage Resource Database

Compile cultural resource survey data from New York, Vermont, and Québec and create a region-wide inventory on a GIS-linked computer database. This database should provide an up-to-date historic record and promote integration in broader planning applications. To achieve this, Vermont, New York, and Québec need to cooperate in developing a uniform cultural resource inventory, evaluation process, and computerized system for all areas of study, analysis, evaluation, designation, protection, interpretation, and promotion. The inventory process should reflect this integration in both its planning and applications.

 

Evaluate Carrying Capacity for Cultural Heritage and Recreation Sites/Resources

Promoting increased heritage tourism for its economic benefits raises concerns for the long-term integrity of cultural sites. Overuse may degrade the sites and, in turn, diminish tourism potential. Carrying capacity measures the limits of use a resource is capable of sustaining. It is both an objective and subjective analysis - measuring physical impacts as well as human perceptions. Such research is needed to assist in determining management options that will ensure that the relationship among visitors, host communities and cultural preservation remains positive. Research could focus initially on the Underwater Preserves in Lake Champlain and the sites associated with the Paddler’s Trail to develop a model for measuring carrying capacity that can be applied to other sites around the Basin and in other regions.

 

Establish Best Management Practices for Heritage Resources

Research best planning/management practices for important current cultural issues (including historic bridges, post offices, downtowns, and the impact of truck traffic on cultural resources), and prepare a guide of best management practices for cultural sites (particularly those in private ownership) similar to what has been done for agriculture through the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

 

Curriculum Development

Utilizing the canal schooner Lois McClure as an ambassador for the region and as an educational platform:  In July 2004 the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum completed and launched an 88ft. canal schooner christened the Lois McClure.  In over a two-month period the schooner traveled Lake Champlain, visiting historic ports in New York and Vermont, bringing history to these communities.  A specialized education curriculum has been developed to accompany the program.  The public reception has exceeded all expectations.  The canal schooner is poised to begin a four-month journey in 2005 to bring its message of history through the Champlain Canal and into the Hudson Valley and New York City.  The schooner operations and its specialized curriculum enhance public appreciation for Lake Champlain and its cultural and natural resources, and this operation should be supported.