Chamber Awards Gala: Chairman’s Award, River Region Partnership Award honorees announced

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The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, above. and Rainbow Air will be honored at Friday’s Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala. (Submitted photo)

Chairman’s Award: Niagara Falls National Heritage Area

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area has been chosen as the 2017 Chairman’s Award recipient by the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce board of directors and Chairwoman Kristen Trunzo.

This organization has accomplished many successful projects over the past few years to capture this region’s history, heritage and culture. These projects will have a lasting positive impact on the region.

In 2011, a commission was formed in Niagara Falls to create the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, spanning from LaSalle and Niagara Falls to Lewiston and Youngstown. It is in partnership with the National Parks Services and U.S. Department of the Interior that the National Heritage areas were first designated by Congress in 2008.

These are areas that tell the important stories that celebrate the nation’s diverse heritage. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area is one of 49 in the U.S. New York has four National Heritage areas.

Sara Capen was hired as the project director, part-time, in 2011, and became executive director in 2013. The NFNHA has two full-time employees who collaborate with other heritage area partners that seek to make the interpretive, environmental, economic and social improvements that benefit both residents and visitors.

The office of the NFNHA is located on the Niagara University campus in Timon Hall. The university serves as a great resource and partner for the organization. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area has developed programs with local organizations and relies on its partners to help further its message. It has worked with historical associations, State Parks, art councils and other nonprofits to showcase the region. Many organizations rely on grant funding for their projects from the NFNHA.

Some of the projects created out of the NFNHA include the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area, which will highlight the history that took place here at the Niagara Falls train station, come 2018. The National Heritage Area also has the National Parks Service Passport Program. The Junior Ranger program is modeled after the Parks Service Passport Program and was the first project implemented by the NFNHA. The booklet features information and history from the Niagara Region geared toward the fourth-grade reading level and up. More than 10,000 booklets have been distributed.

Another project spearheaded by the NFNHA is the Discover Niagara Shuttle, which will start running again in May for the start of the second year of the pilot program. The shuttle is funded by several major stakeholders and connects Niagara Falls to Youngstown. Four shuttles run seven days a week, with the midpoint at the New York Power Authority.

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