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SUBMITTED by Peter Evans, Wayne County Historian (2-June-2009)

“This Place Matters”

This is the theme for National Preservation Month - May 2009

Every Wayne County Town and Village has active preservation projects and activities underway. “This Place Matters” is not about just one cobblestone school house, lighthouse, carriage house or abandoned Grange Hall or church. It is about recognizing the amazing abundance of noteworthy structures, neighborhoods, places, sites and views that still exist pretty much as they were originally built or envisioned in every corner of Wayne County. At least a dozen structures are currently under review for inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. In the past year, two sites have been recognized with National Park Service Network To Freedom designations and one village is in the process of expanding their Historic District to include their signature corner with its’ four prominent churches. This same village is the first municipality to receive certification as a CLG (Certified Local Government) which carries a major historic preservation component.

Sadly, each year a few of our familiar sites and buildings disappear either through neglect or demolition. In recent months fire has claimed a couple as well. Our governments are trying to help with various tax credit programs. Mostly it is up to each of us to encourage our town and village leadership Boards to integrate historic preservation principles into our zoning, codes and master planning processes. We will make errors from time to time but the best approach is to have a mechanism for public review for any demolition and new construction. In many cases, decisions are made one way or another because there is a feeling that no one cares either way so why delay needlessly.

Providing a period for open review is the best way to insure that the community has been offered the opportunity to respond.

Of course, Wayne County has almost 35 miles of the Erie (Barge) Canal spanning the breadth of its southern border. What is different today are the many groups of volunteers out cutting scrub growth trees and clearing brush to rediscover the endless parts of the original “Clinton’s Ditch” (1820s) and “Enlarged Erie” (1850s). Wayne County, without question, contains more miles of these three engineering marvels than any other county in New York State.

Trail Works, Inc. (Wayne County’s Trails Advocacy Group) in partnership with Wegmans and Cornell Cooperative Extension has just launched on April 1st the overwhelmingly successful “Passport Program”. This “Passport Program” highlights sixteen trails around Wayne County. It is designed to promote our county’s trails, help us all lead more healthy lives and to encourage each of us to go out and appreciate the natural and historic gifts we are blessed with here in Wayne County. You don’t have to travel very far to begin to realize that what we have here is unique and extremely special in the greater scheme of New York State.

The theme “This Place Matters” certainly applies to all the towns, villages and hamlets in Wayne County and really includes the whole regional area between Syracuse and Rochester. Connecting communities with a system of multi-use trails like making provisions for historic preservation should always be approached in a way that everyone wins and benefits from these initiatives (owners, neighbors, businesses and community).

See you somewhere on the trail soon.

Peter Evans, Wayne County Historian, Lyons, New York


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