November 30, 2021

Federal heritage status could boost area financially

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

David Lane, the executive director of the 1890 House Museum in Cortland, goes over paperwork Friday. The museum and other tourism destinations in Cortland could benefit from a federal National Heritage Area designation, which the National Park Service is reviewing.

David Lane, the executive director of the 1890 House Museum in Cortland, walked quietly around the first floor Friday.

No visitors were there at the moment, but Lane said the museum has seen plenty of visitors on the weekends, many from Buffalo and New York City.

“We’re viewed as a primary destination, certainly for Cortland,” he said.

While the museum has been busy recently on the weekends, cancelations of events last year — such as weddings — due to the pandemic have financially hurt the museum.

Lane hopes an ongoing study by the National Park Service will be accepted that could potentially make Cortland County a National Heritage Area.

The study for the designation began in 2019, said Meghan Lawton, the executive director of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Lawton said the report on the assessment by the National Park Service will likely be published at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

From there, it would need to be passed in Congress before Cortland County could become a National Heritage Area, according to the National Park Service.

If designated as one of the 14 counties within the Finger Lakes Heritage Area, the county would be able to receive federal funding for promotion and tourism, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in 2019.

“It would be a boon for the entire Finger Lakes region, and would not only give the area national recognition, but would potentially open up the area to additional funding options into the future,” Lawton said Friday. “The Cortland County CVB looks forward to continuing to assist our Finger Lakes partners with this process, and to the day that we achieve this recognition.”

The 14 counties included in the area are: Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates.

The study was brought up at the Feb. 11 Cortland County Government Operations Committee where Eric Mulvihill, the Cortland County Legislature clerk, said that members of the committee “will be hearing more about this in the months to come.”

A presentation by the National Park Service may likely be brought before the committee for public comment.

Lane said the museum is slowly recovering from the financial losses of the canceled events from the pandemic, but having Cortland County become a registered National Heritage Area would help with recovery.

Many of the people who come from cities like Buffalo or New York City tend to come for weekend trips and stay in hotels, he said.

While the completion of the study may be a few years away, Lane is hopeful the county can be designated as an historic area.

“I look at it very favorably because we’ve been an important influence for people wanting to come up this way,” he said.