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Commission for the Historic Preservation Commission

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Ogdensburg has a Historical Preservation Commission, which is not remarkably active.

According to the city’s Web site, the commission is entitled to suggest, recommend and implement local historic preservation programs and promote the historic resources of Ogdensburg.

However, there is no inventory of the commission’s accomplishments; neither is there a list of future or potential projects nor a link for citizens to offer ideas.

Regarding accomplishments, what has the commission achieved in the 21st century?

If memory serves me, the commission saw to the replacement of the historic Oswegatchie Pump House leaking roof about 20 years ago.

The plans to have the pump house become a museum were shelved for lack of parking…or lack of foresight and imagination.

The building, used by the city for storage, needs repairs to the stonework.

In lieu of a museum, I propose an idea to help the Historical Preservation Commission promote the city’s historic resources to visitors and residents.

Wayfinding signage. Ogdensburg has a 200-year inventory of American architecture, nine listings on the National Register of Historic Places, and clusters of plaques and monuments.

Where are they?

To find them, direction signs are necessary for walkers and cyclists. Identifying markers have a short descriptive sentence.

From each destination, signage points to other attractions. Forget distance, indicate the time to walk or bike.

Overnight boaters may want to explore on foot.

Signs indicating a number of locations could point the way from Hosmer’s Marina and the Municipal Marina.

Re-enactors come to Ogdensburg twice a year. Visitors attend Founder’s Weekend and the Seaway Festival. They likely have interests beyond muskets and midway rides.

Wayfinding signage is an element of heritage tourism creating destinations and connecting attractions.

Here Ogdensburg could take a page from Rochester’s wayfinding playbook.

Consider the parallels to Rochester’s plan to link the city center, the Heritage Trail, the Genesee River Trail and historic resources.

Rochester aims to attract residents and new visitors, and new investment.

Ogdensburg does not have a vibrant city center, but has an active core centered on Library Park. Consider city hall the southern edge and to the north the arc of the Oswegatchie and St. Lawrence.

Inquiring minds may want to know about the names attached to civic facilities.

Who was Ed Dobisky after whom the recreation center is named? Some basic information outside the center would be helpful before encountering the Dobisky display inside, along with the other exhibits about Ogdensburg’s history.

Elsa M. Luksich is a mystery name to me. I assume those who use the pool can learn about her there.

Similarly people unfamiliar with Ogdensburg have no idea why the arena is called the Donald G. Lockwood Community Center.

In this rant I’ve moved beyond commissioning the Historical Preservation Commission.

Promoting Ogdensburg’s heritage to residents, visitors and tourists extends to other city commissions and boards: Recreation, Planning, and Pride and Beautification, also the Chamber of Commerce.

Where municipally funded wayfinding signage is problematical, communities across North America witnessed grassroots’ action.

In 2011 Walk Your City sprang up in North Carolina to encourage walkable communities directing citizens and visitors to cultural sites and local attractions.

Although costs apply to having the customized blue and white signs printed, citizen organizations in more than 30 countries have joined.

Walk Your City arrived in Ottawa this month. Will we see a “Walk Ogdensburg” initiative?

One last thought on this modest proposal.

This past weekend, and always the first weekend of May, more than 100 municipalities worldwide participated in Jane’s Walk.

Locally led walking tours take people to explore their communities and make neighborhood connections.

The late urban activist Jane Jacobs, the author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, inspired the walks.

What better way to discover Ogdensburg’s historic resources than to explore the city on foot guided by knowledgeable individuals or informative signage.

Jane’s Walk and Walk Your City are a Google click away.

Also take time to search Doors Open, an international initiative through which residents and visitors discover local heritage treasures, some of which are rarely open to the public.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association.

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