Creative Ohio 2015 – Register Today!

2015 Creative Ohio_BannerTom Borrup, Creative Community Builders, joins Creative Ohio 2015 as the Keynote speaker.  Register today to hear this visionary leader and learn how Ohio communities can be transformed with creative thinking and thoughtful planning.  Register at Creative Ohio 2015.

Tom Borrup is a leader and innovator in creative community building and creative placemaking – leveraging cultural and other assets to advance economic, social, civic, and physical regeneration of place-based communities. He consults with cities, foundations, and nonprofits across the U.S. to integrate arts, economic development, urban planning and design, civic engagement, and animation of public space.

His 2006 book, The Creative Community Builders’ Handbook, remains the leading text in the field. It profiles communities that have transformed their economic, social, and physical infrastructures through the arts and humanities. As Executive Director of Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis from 1980 until 2002, Tom helped transform a diverse urban neighborhood while building a nationally recognized multidisciplinary, cross-cultural organization. He has served as a member of many nonprofit boards and funding panels for public and private agencies, and was a trustee of the Jerome Foundation in Saint Paul from 1994 to 2003. With the National Endowment for the Arts, Tom served on a variety of funding and policy panels over 25 years in the media arts, visual arts, presenting, design, and advancement program categories.

Tom holds an M.A. in Communications and Public Policy from Goddard College and was a 2001-2002 Fellow in the Knight Program in Community Building at the University of Miami School of Architecture. Currently, he is completing a Ph.D. on Leadership and Change at Antioch University researching the role of social and organizational networks in the planning and management of cultural districts.  He teaches Creative Placemaking for Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture’s Urban and Regional Planning Graduate Program.

Don’t miss this chance — Register today!   Creative Ohio 2015

Ohio Site In Line for Top Ten List

USA Today is conducting a reader poll to determine the best birding sites in the country. The nominations is a list of prime locations sure to make any life-lister’s heart beat faster just thinking about all the birds one might see: Big Bend, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the Platte River, Point Reyes National Seashore, Magee Marsh.

Magee Marsh. In Ohio.

I’ve been to Magee, several times. In the Spring to see warblers migrating north; in Autumn to watch trumpeter swans fuel up for their journey south. And just this past September, to see pairs of Sand Hill Cranes resting in shallow water before undertaking another leg of the journey to winter roosts.

WarblerWhy should we care if Magee Marsh makes the USA Today list of the top ten birding sites? Because birding is big business in Ohio. By the latest estimates, avitourists spent a whopping $30,000,000 in the Magee Marsh region during the April-May warbler migration. Birders support jobs in hotels, gas stations, restaurants, and countless other retail outlets. Some of that revenue flows back to preserve historic sites. Located on the northern edge of the Great Black Swamp, the region around Magee Marsh is defined by water and settlement stories. The residents know their history and cherish it.

My journeys up to Magee Marsh are among the best trips I take each year, because the folks around Magee Marsh get it – I’m there to see birds, spend money, and support the place that shelters all those little warblers and big cranes.

Join me in making sure Magee Marsh is recognized as a great place – to bird, to explore Ohio’s heritage. You can vote for Magee Marsh on the USA Today website every day until November 10. Just follow this link —



Food Conference

30-Mile Meal-Food InstituteThe Real Food Real Local Institute just sent a notice for its 3rd annual conference which coming up on June 11-13. This year’s event includes workshops, panel discussions, and a keynote by Anthony Flaccavento, founded of SCALE, Inc. Tours, meals, and receptions all highlight local flavors and several workshops should be of interest to heritage tourism planners. Registration is available at


Building Heritage Trails

NTHPTom Johnson in Somerset shared a link to PreservationNation, a blog from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Seven Steps to Plan a Heritage Trail” is a quick slide show introducing the concept. Briefly, it outlines important components like setting goals for the heritage trail experience and identifying compelling stories along the route. Check it out here:

Thinking about creating a heritage trail in your region?  You can find detailed guidance here:  “A Short Guide to Heritage Trails,” by Keith Small, provides insight into maximizing the benefits for community residents and visitors alike, offering suggestions on types of trails, choosing trail features, and risk assessments. It may be a “short guide,” but it’s also a thorough introduction to planning a heritage trail.

Another link I like is Designed for classroom use, this little lesson plan has the added benefit of getting kids involved with community history and heritage.Canalway-suspension-bridge-over-Cleveland-intersection-2--199x300

Heritage trails can be formatted for walking or driving, and include active or passive experiences for travelers. Some span a few city clocks, others traverse vast distances. Whatever geography your trail plans to cover, a heritage trail is a great way to connect people to the places you cherish.

New US Capitol tour Combines Ohio and Social Media

For those traveling to Washington DC, a new tour of the Capitol Building is being offered by Speaker John Boehner.  According to the Journal News, the Speaker’s staff will conduct tours that highlight features of special interest to Ohioans, such as statuary memorializing famous Ohioans and the committee room where Speaker Boehner spent many years advocating for Ohio farmers.

The tours have a unique twist:  Each begins in the Speaker’s Longworth Building office where guests receive a card with hints for snapping “selfies” during their visit.   Guests are encouraged to share their Capitol self-portraits via several Twitter sites, such as @SpeakerBoehner, #SelfieGuided Tour, or #OH08.

To read more, go to

Ohio Earthworks Up For Sale

Jarrod Burks, President of the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, wrote to alert us that a major earthwork site is threatened: the Junction Group in Ross County. A collection of nine small-to-medium sized enclosures, the site was mapped by Squier and Davis in the 1840s, the Junction Group includes Ohio’s only known quatrefoil, which was located during a magnetic survey in 2005.


The Junction Group is scheduled to be sold at auction on March 18th.

The site covers about 20-25 acres but is part of an 89-acre field. Located on the southwest edge of Chillicothe, the site has road frontage plus nearby city water and sewage, thus making it attractive for real estate development and providing threat to the earthworks.

Junc Group Mag Survey


The Heartland Earthworks Conservancy (HEC) is part of a consortium working to save the Junction Group and preserve its archaeological significance. To learn more about the Junction Group and how you can help, visit the HEC website:





Helping Travelers Plan

9-29-13235_edited-1I don’t need much when I travel – usually just a destination and a loose plan. Lately, water and birds figure in our travel plans. I’d heard that spectacular birding opportunities can be found on the western shores of Lake Erie, so was the destination.

Like most travelers today, I went to the internet to create the loose plan. With a few clicks, I ended up on one of the best travel sites I’ve ever visited – run by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. In addition to understanding birds, BSBO understands birders and the impact this niche group has on the local economy.

What’s so great about BSBO’s website? Follow along at

This is an attractive site built on a simple platform. BSBO posts fresh content on a regular basis. (We visited the area September 27-30, and since then, the site has posted an advisory that the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is closed due to the federal shut-down.) A pretty picture grabbed my attention; the sidebars left and right drew me deeper into the site to find the information we needed for a weekend stay.

The left sidebar is a list of pages for birding – information about wildlife refuges with detailed maps, an article about what birds show up during which months, a graph to illustrate peak autumn warbler migration, a northwest Ohio bird checklist. More crisp photographs illustrated each page.

This is the minimum I expect from any travel site – information about the destination, what we could expect to see, when might be the best time to visit. It’s the right sidebar that most impresses me. Below a list of sponsors and hours of operation, I found links to pages for the Black Swamp Birds and Business Alliance (BSBBA).


Magee Marsh/Ottawa National Wildlife Area

So to plan our trip, the BSBO site led me here –







Bollins Birds & Beds

here –






Jack’s Superette

and here –The BSBBA page includes a pdf of business cards for visitors to print and leave at the various establishments we visited. Intrigued, I did just that – and was warmly greeted as a welcome guest each time I included one of those little cards along with payment for services and food.

There are several Civic Tourism lessons here. But my point today is that heritage destinations need to think about service before a tourist packs the car. And the place to begin is where most tourists start their planning – on the web. My experience with is a great example. Virtually effortless planning made for an effortless trip. Instead of using up precious birding time to find travel amenities, the BSBO site provided all the information I needed before we left home.

Certainly, our websites need to promote our attractions. But we should keep in mind what travelers need, too. Identifying places to stay, eat, and shop increases the likelihood that travelers will visit your location – and stick around long enough to support the businesses that support your heritage destination.

What’s on your website?

Get To Know OHC Better

Ohio Humanities Programming in Northwest Ohio

Ohio Humanities will hold a general introduction workshop in Perrysburg on July 9. Free and open to the public, this informative session will provide an introduction to Ohio Humanities programs and grants, including information regarding new grant deadlines and guidelines, and the OHC heritage tourism initiative.

The session will serve as a chance for those in Northwest Ohio to begin conversations about program ideas with Ohio Humanities’ experienced program officers.

“We’re looking forward to expanding our engagement with individuals and organizations devoted to the humanities throughout Northwest Ohio,” said Ohio Humanities Executive Director Patricia Williamsen.

Those interested in learning more about opportunities offered by Ohio Humanities are encouraged join the staff at Fort Meigs, located at 29100 West River Road in Perrysburg, on July 9th from 10 a.m. to noon. The session is free to attend, but reservations are required. To reserve a seat or for more information, call 614-461-7802, or e-mail David Merkowitz,

On the Corner


Recently, the News York Times ran a series of articles about Donna’s Diner in Elyria, hard hit by the recession, yet staying open to take care of its regulars. Check out the story at

Now, read Connie Schultz’s blog article. The struggle to keep the business open is by no means over, but Donna’s Diner may have turned the corner!

Stories in Stone

I have to confess that I love cemeteries. Doesn’t matter where they are – Spring Grove in Cincinnati with its majestic mausoleums or a tiny plot tucked next to a country church – I’ll slam on the brakes to spend an hour walking among tombstones. Anytime is a good time to visit a cemetery, as historian Shirley Wajda points out in this post.

A community’s local history isn’t necessarily recorded in ink or collected by a museum. The WPA Writers’ Project of Ohio understood this when they created The Ohio Guide. The writers sought stories to add to what Harlan Hatcher, the Project’s director, called “the usual data about the State.” The writers talked with “venerable citizens who know things not written in the histories,” and they traveled “the highways and by-roads through towns, villages, and farmlands, to report what Ohio is like at this moment and to tell the story of how it came to be.”

The writers found that the venerable citizens often pointed them to the local cemetery. Other workers in the Writer’s Project were recording the information on every gravestone in many of the state’s cemeteries. All history, they discovered, was like all politics: local. A visit to a community’s cemetery was like walking into history. Twenty-one cemeteries are listed in The Ohio Guide.

Cemetery tourism at the beginning of the 21st century is increasingly popular. Check any newspaper in October, and you’ll find tours of historic cemeteries sponsored by local heritage organizations. Some of these feature local tragedies as “ghost” or “haunted” walks, but many more are based on a more dignified exploration of a community’s past.

For many small, volunteer historical societies in Ohio, the local cemetery is the primary—and sometimes the only—historic artifact with which to engage the public in the past. Lacking any collections and a permanent home, the Vienna Historical Society, for example, began in 2008 to document the historic section of the Township’s cemetery. In 2010, the Society began offering cemetery walks dedicated to an annual theme. Preservation days bring together community members and students to clean gravestones, and fundraising has resulted in the professional restoration of several important gravestones. All this focus on community history has increased residents’ shared sense of place and, as the information is shared via the Society’s website, others have visited the cemetery.

A community’s “story” may be best told in stone. And perhaps it’s better to use the plural here, for there are many stories in a cemetery’s gravestones. Of course, biographies of local leaders, whether famous or infamous, are easily discovered. Gravestone art and symbolism tells us much of local carvers, sculptors, and masons, the social status of the interred, and fit into larger movements in social and cultural history. The lives of women and children, of the poor and marginalized, are memorialized in cemeteries when they aren’t visible in the historical record. Veterans’ graves relate a given community to larger national and international conflicts. Even the vegetation tells us of funerary practices and pilgrimages of earlier generations. Vienna’s cemetery is crisscrossed in spring with wild strawberry blossoms, forget-me-nots, and daffodils. Here and there are flowering bushes that have burst the ceramic pots that once held them, the potsherds barely beneath the earth’s surface, surviving alongside the markers.

Shirley Wajda, Ph.D, is an independent historian living in the Connecticut Western Reserve. She is the creator of Viennapedia (, a wiki devoted to her hometown of Vienna, Ohio. She likes cemeteries, too, which makes her a ideal travel companion!