Dr. Mehrhoff started by asking how many were familiar with Waynesboro, Virginia, Ephraim, Wisconsin, or Calistoga, California. Few of those present – if any – were. He then asked how many were familiar with the Appalachian Trail, Door County, or Napa Valley. Many people indicated knowledge of these places. Dr. Merhoff shared that by collaborating with other small towns and special places in those celebrated regions, these three small towns have been able to maintain and even build upon their natural and cultural heritage.
Dr. Mehrhoff described the importance of cultural tourism, which is traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. An example of an area in the Boonslick region with a rich cultural heritage is the German Heritage Corridor. Traditions and values have been acquired from the Germans who settled in the area. Placemaking can make this area a tourist destination.
Placemaking involves a collaborative process through which communities can tell their stories. It inspires communities to reimagine and reinvent public spaces, and strengthens the connection between people and the places they share. Ways in which this can be done are through natural landscapes such as the Katy Trail, creation of parks and recreational assets, Agritourism (such as farms, vineyards, country stores), cultural or historic resources, tours and festivals, and folk arts (including artisans, authors, musicians and storytellers).
Dr. Mehrhoff shared that cultural heritage and placemaking are the path to a healthy future. He provided several resources for the group and encouraged them to consider a long view of placemaking in the Boonslick region in order to build a restorative economy on the solid foundation of our rich heritage.