The Mohawk Valley regional Path Through History work group is looking for some good ways to spend $100,000.
Back in August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the $1 million grant program designed to promote tourism through one of the state’s greatest assets — an interesting past.
“We are putting our state’s heritage on display for the world to enjoy,” he said at the time.
The program aims to put historical signs up along the Thruway to funnel speeding tourism dollars into the heart of the state. Once people take the exit, however, they’ll need something to do linked to history. That’s where regional work groups come in.
“Path Through History is about better telling New York’s story,” said Hudson Valley Greenway Executive Director Mark Castiglione, who helps run the program, “and folks in the region know their stories best.”
The state was divided into 10 regions, each with a group of local movers and shakers charged with brainstorming ways to better tell their local stories.
Johnstown Councilwoman Helen Martin is one of about 20 working on the Mohawk Valley’s plan. They’ve been meeting twice a month since August and have a few good ideas, “but there might be things we haven’t even thought of,” she said.
Just in case, the group is holding a public meeting Thursday at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie. Everyone from historians to business owners to people off the street are welcome to come with ideas or feedback.
So far Martin said the group is considering two main projects. The first is simply to use their $100,000 to improve bike trails through historical areas in the Mohawk Valley.
With bicycle tourism on the rise, it could be money well spent, but her personal favorite idea is a bit more on the virtual end of things.
“In Johnstown we have a digital tour of sites tied to Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” she said. “That runs 24-7.” She thinks a similar system could be implemented relatively easily along the Mohawk Valley portion of the Revolutionary War Trail.
Tangible construction projects would eat through $100,000 pretty fast. Building a smart phone app would simply update historical information that’s already been gathered, making it readily available to the modern traveler. It could be a cost-effective solution.
While reserving judgment until after the public meeting, Castiglione said Martin’s plan would be a good use of the grant money.
“Most of the work has already been done,” he said. “We would just leverage that work.”
So far Castiglione has attended three similar public meetings in other regions and said they’re drawing solid public interest. The Mid-Hudson Valley group met Friday, bringing 50 people into the conversation.
Counting group members, Martin expects about 60 locals to show up to the Arkell Museum. The meeting runs 1-4 p.m. Thursday.
The Capital District regional work group will hold its public meeting from 3-5 p.m. at the WMHT studios in Troy on Feb. 28.