Lackawanna Valley Heritage: Honoring the Past, Enriching the Present, Building the Future
By Tina Gallagher
The Lackawanna Heritage Valley is one of 49 National Heritage Areas recognized by Congress for unique contributions to the American experience. For the past 20 years, the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority (LHVA), the managing entity of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley, has partnered with government, business, civic organizations, and individuals to develop the region’s historic, cultural, economic, and natural resources.
The focus of the LHVA is renewal of the environment, the economy, and cultural pride.
“Our goal is to create a sense of place Aand educate the public about our history,” says Natalie Gelb, Executive Director of the LHVA. “We’re proud of our past and are working to preserve and explore it while providing for the future.”
Programs such as local museum exhibits, train rides, architectural tours, and ethnic celebrations encourage people to explore this area’s past, industrial heritage, and diverse culture. Through the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail (LRHT), communities are linked to each other as well as to the Lackawanna River.
"The trail connects us to the river and is not only recreational but also educational," Ms. Gelb said of the trail. “It also offers a different perspective of the area and lovely views of the river.”
Currently, the LRHT system includes 56 miles of trails open to the public and five new miles are anticipated for construction in 2011-2012. These trails are open year round to hikers, bicyclists, and runners.
The LRHT joins with the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Rail-Trail form a 75 mile multi-use trail system along the Lackawanna River from New York State through Susquehanna, Wayne, Lackawanna, and Luzerne counties to the Susquehanna River in Pittston. The LRHT system is a vital link between Pennsylvania’s and New York State’s trail networks, as well as a connection to the Appalachian Trail.
“The goal is to connect the trails section-by-section so we have a completed system,” Ms. Gelb said. “That's what we are looking toward. They will connect geographic areas, but also the people.”
Besides offering recreational benefits to the community, trails and heritage areas also encourage tourism and recreation-related spending, which has a significant impact on the local economy. Heritage tourism is the largest industry in the world and the second largest industry in Pennsylvania.
While the various LHVA programs work to enhance the economy, the challenging economic environment has led to state and federal funding cuts. Grants have become more competitive and because of that, for the first time in its history, LHVA is running a membership campaign.
“This is our first membership campaign,” says Gelb. “We’re looking for individuals to become Ambassadors in Action, our new membership corps, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary.”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the LHV, the Lackawanna Historical Society (LHS) is honoring the organization at the LHS Annual Dinner on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at the Scranton Cultural Center. The event will feature the premiere of “Legacy,” a documentary about the Lackawanna Heritage Valley produced by WVIA. The film will also air on WVIA that same night at 8pm.
For more information on the LHS Annual Dinner, visit lackawanna history.org.
To learn more about the Lackawanna Heritage Valley, and view a map of the LRHT system visit lhva.org
• Tell the story of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley
• Facilitate partnerships
• Preserve and enhance the physical character and economic vitality of the communities in the Lackawanna Valley
• Improve the visitor experience
• Reconnect people and communities to the Lackawanna River
• Trails are the #1 amenity potential homeowners cite when they are considering moving to a new community.
• Trails offer recreation, health and wellness, and social benefits to residents.
• Trails provide safe alternative transportation routes for people travelling between their homes and school or work.
• Trails stimulate tourism and recreation spending and they create and retain jobs.
• Trails turn abandoned land and brownfields into superior public amenities.
• Trails are important community assets that spur new business development, revitalize neighborhoods, and increase property values for residents.