As part of its longstanding commitment to preserving Guilford’s historic built and natural environments, the Guilford Preservation Alliance launched its ground-breaking Heritage Tourism Initiative (“HTI”) in October 2011, working in tandem with professional staff from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to develop a viable heritage tourism component for Guilford’s local economy. At its core, heritage tourism is about inviting people to discover and experience their town’s local history and culture as expressed in its distinctive historic buildings, places of historic interest and preserved natural resources. Using best practices for heritage tourism development, the HTI program in Guilford has based its approach on obtaining and developing community-wide consensus for how Guilford sees heritage tourism becoming a part of its local economy.
In that regard, the HTI has sponsored four community wide workshops and two forums since 2011 to develop a strategic plan for implementing heritage tourism as a component of our local economy; created and offered two seasons of an award-winning Historic Guilford Walking Tours summer program led by local high school student guides; and developed a new “History Hikes” offering, in concert with the Guilford Land Conservation Trust, which will combine hikes to and through protected open spaces with connections to local Guilford history, historic architecture or historic events.
The HTI workshops have so far resulted in the creation of three reports, recently completed as part of its planning process. The first two reports, “An Assessment and Recommendations Report for Heritage Tourism Development in Guilford, Connecticut, May 2012,” and “Guilford, Connecticut Heritage Tourism Strategic Plan: A Five-Year Plan for Heritage Tourism Development 2013-2018,” were written by Carolyn Brackett of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The final report, “Telling Guilford’s Story: Report on Interpretation and Signage Prepared for the Heritage Tourism Initiative of the Guilford Preservation Alliance,” completed December 31, 2013, was written by Nancy I. M. Morgan, Jeffrey Dawson and Carolyn Brackett, and prepared under the direction of Shirley Girioni and Rob Vavasour. To read these reports please click on the relevant hyperlinks in this paragraph.
Building upon one of the most important recommendations contained in its Strategic Plan, which is to fund and build a Visitors Information Kiosk in central Guilford, GPA has been working steadily since 2012 to bring about its implementation. Using funds in the Marjory Wilshire Schmitt Fund, established by Boynton Schmitt in memory of his late wife, who was GPA’s first president, as well as with the generous financial support of the Connecticut Humanities Council and the Guilford Foundation, GPA has been working with a local architectural firm, CK Architects, to create architectural plans and drawings for the envisioned kiosk, to be located on town property on Church Street in downtown Guilford, directly adjacent to the Community Center.
The plans have obtained all of the necessary town regulatory approvals. The project now awaits the successful completion of a capital development campaign for GPA to move forward with the construction phase of the effort. When completed, the Visitors Information Kiosk will represent the second of GPA’s gifts to the town in celebration of its 375th anniversary in 2014, the first being the railroad station permanent historical exhibit. We hope the kiosk will serve as the focal point for our growing heritage tourism program and provide much-needed visitor services to persons coming to our town to enjoy its wealth of historical, architectural and natural resources.
In March 2014 Tony Fappiano of GCTV interviewed Guilford Preservation Alliance board members Shirley Girioni, Dennis Culliton, and Rob Vavasour, as well as Megan Vanacore (a Historic Guilford Walking Tours guide/leader) re the HTI and its related HGWT and Visitors Information Kiosk projects. It was a wide-ranging interview and very informative about the topics covered. Click here to watch the video.