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December 13, 2000

Governor Announces Four New Illinois Heritage Tourism Projects

COLLINSVILLE -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced the selection of four new Illinois heritage tourism projects, including the first-ever project aimed at promoting African-American heritage within the state.

Illinois' heritage tourism program has been a national model since the first seven projects were designated in 1998. With the naming of these four new projects, Illinois has a total of eleven heritage areas that are being targeted for development.

"Illinoisans can take pride in our state's history and heritage, and the Heritage Tourism Program provides Illinois with new opportunities to share our past with visitors," Governor Ryan said. "I'm particularly pleased that the development of the first African-American heritage area in Illinois is moving forward. Retracing the Underground Railroad has tremendous potential to bring new economic development to minority communities while ensuring that the history of African-Americans in Illinois will be by remembered by future generations."

The Department of Commerce and Community Affairs' (DCCA) Bureau of Tourism developed the Heritage Tourism Program to boost cultural/historical tourism throughout Illinois. Selected projects qualify for six years of administrative support; grants to provide technical assistance; and priority funding from the Tourism Attraction Development Grant Program.

"Research shows that heritage travelers spend more per trip, take longer trips, visit more attractions and stay overnight more often than the typical leisure traveler. The Heritage Tourism Program enhances our ability to capitalize on the economic impact these travelers have on the communities they visit," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough.

"Many of our heritage projects take in rural areas that have great potential for tourism, but need help in creating a well-rounded visitor experience. The heritage program nurtures these projects, with a goal of helping them to become self-sustaining new attractions for visitors," added Cathy Ritter, DCCA's deputy director, Bureau of Tourism, who along with McDonough announced the projects at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretative Center.

The original seven Heritage Projects include: "Looking for Lincoln," "Trace of the Ages: The Mississippi River," "I&M Canal: The Waters that Built America," "A Tapestry of Time: The Illinois River," "Ohio River Route: Where Illinois Began," "Crossroads Region" (in southeastern Illinois), and "Immigrants and Ingenuity" (in northwestern Illinois).

The four newest Heritage Tourism Projects include: Freedom Trails; Illinois Route 66; and two projects recently designated as National Scenic Byways: The National Road and The Lincoln Highway.

A further description of each project follows:

Counties Included: Adams, Pike, Morgan, Scott, Greene, Macoupin, Jersey, Madison, Fayette, St. Clair, Clinton, Washington, Randolph, Perry, Jackson and Alexander

In Illinois, there seems to be roughly six major definable routes of the Underground Railroad with five of these routes converging into Chicago. Phase I of this proposal begins from the south and east with Phases II and III picking up the remaining counties that will take the trail into Chicago and beyond. This phase encompasses sixteen counties with the intent to partner with public, private and governmental entities to amass funding to create exhibits, publications and conduct research. Many benefits are expected in the areas of Community, Economic and Tourism Development as well as renewed pride in African American communities. This project proposes to link the trails in a systematic order along with African American experiences stemming from the lifestyles places and characters relevant to the areas.

Counties included: Cook, DuPage, Will, Grundy, Livingston, McLean, Logan, Sangamon, Macoupin, Montgomery, Madison and St. Clair

This project will encompass a twelve county area stretching from Chicago in the north all the way to Madison and St. Clair counties in the South. It will be designed to further develop Route 66 as a viable tourism destination in Illinois by linking many of the communities along the route through infrastructure improvement and enhancement, development of maps and guides, audio tours, special events and exhibits, establishment of an Illinois Route 66 brand identity, and implementation of a cooperative strategic marketing program. As product development continues over time, the program will be expanded to include more communities within the state and by cultivating partnerships across state borders, Route 66 has the potential to become a national heritage tourism destination and also has great International appeal.

Counties Included: Cook, Will, Kendall, Kane, DeKalb, Ogle, Lee and Whiteside

The Lincoln Highway, as the nation's first transcontinental paved roadway, connected rural farming communities with industrialized cities as it crossed through 13 states. Referred to throughout history as the "Main Street of America", the original purpose for building the Lincoln Highway was to connect the communities, families and businesses located along its length by means of a paved surface. In Illinois, the 179 miles of the Lincoln Highway is a journey from East To West taking visitors from the industrialized southern suburbs of Chicago, through a rural suburban region towards Joliet. The Lincoln Highway, which was designated a National Scenic Byway in June 2000, possesses the historic and cultural intrinsic qualities to be recognized as a true tourism destination.

Counties Included: Clark, Cumberland, Effingham, Fayette, Bond, Madison and St. Clair

The National Road of Illinois, which was designated a National Scenic Byway in June, 2000, runs 165 miles in length from the Indiana border near the Wabash River to the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. The Association has completed a corridor management plan and will be identifying ways to provide interpretation at various sites along the road. They will also be promoting the assets of the National Road through history found in scenic and natural areas, historic architecture, folk life resources, commercial and industrial heritage and recreational activities.


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