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Buono: Panel Will Review ‘Heritage Tourism’

UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – A Senate panel will travel here Wednesday to showcase the Historic Walnford Mill Village, just one of hundreds of New Jersey’s heritage-rich historic sites which could help boost the State’s $30 billion-a-year tourism industry.

“We need a plan and a long-term commitment to place New Jersey in its rightful role as a leading national venue for Heritage Tourism,” said Senator Barbara S. Buono, Chair of the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

“New Jersey has appeal for families to come visit sites ranging from early settlement mill villages like Walnford, to the most critical battles in the War for Independence, to the inner sanctums of the Underground Railroad, to the restored remnants of the Industrial Revolution,” Senator Buono said.

Under the shade trees at bucolic Walnford, the 18th Century mill village run by the Monmouth County Parks System, the Senate committee will hear recommendations for expanding opportunities for Heritage Tourism sites from State tourism experts, State Historic Trust executives and those with experience in operating successful historic sites.

“There has been a tremendous growth in interest in the history of this country and New Jersey’s role has been pivotal at every turn,” Senator Buono said. “With a unified plan and stable funding, New Jersey can reach the point where it can fully share its treasure of heritage sites.”

More than a dozen speakers have been invited to testify at the hearing which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Those who have confirmed their invitations to testify include Virginia Bauer, CEO and Secretary of the Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission; John Watson, Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources for the Department of Environmental Protection; Barbara Irvine, Executive Director of the New Jersey Historic Trust; Marc Mappen, Executive Director of the New Jersey Historical Commission; Michael Zuckerman of the Advocates for New Jersey History, the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and the South Jersey Cultural Alliance; Judi London, President of the South Jersey Tourism Corporation; Robert Barth, Past President of the Canal Society of New Jersey; Marguerite Chandler, President of the Crossroads of the American Revolution Association; Barbara Mitnick, President of the Washington Association of New Jersey, and Linda McTeague from the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum in Basking Ridge and Linda Waller from the Peter Mott House in Lawnside.

In addition, Professors David Listokin or Michael L. Lahr, from the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University and the authors of a comprehensive report on the Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation, are expected to testify.

“We can benefit from hearing what ideas work, where the available funds can best be targeted, and what needs to be done now to assure New Jersey’s role as a national player in the visitor-friendly field of Heritage Tourism,” Senator Buono said.

Other members of the Senate panel are Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, Vice Chair; Sen. Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex; Sen. Nicholas Asselta, R-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland, and Sen. William Gormley, R-Atlantic.