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Seven Steps to Plan a Heritage trail
Set Goals. What do you want your heritage trail to do? Encourage preservation of local resources? Boost the region’s economy? Cultivate community pride?
Identify compelling stories. Think about the stories you’ll want to tell throughout the trail. They could be based on certain places that reflect your region’s culture, people who have had an impact on your town, or milestone events that have shaped your community’s history.
Determine themes. Once you’ve decided what stories to tell, look for an overarching theme. Connecting each place to the same theme will help your heritage trail progress smoothly from beginning to end.
Map the stops. Pick out the specific sites that will make up your heritage trail. As you do, consider if they are already visitor friendly, easily accessible, and if there is lodging, dining, shopping, or gas stations nearby.
Decide how to tell the stories. Each stop will be different and will lend itself to storytelling in different ways. Decide what materials you want to produce to engage visitors and connect them to the site.
Explaining history from a variety of angles makes it not only more interesting, but also more true.” John Hope Franklin, Historian and Author
Create a plan. Reach out to local organizations or other potential partners who may be interested in collaborating. Together, decide who will be responsible for what in launching and maintaining the trail.
Market the trail. Advertise in local newspapers, connect over social media, reach out to partners and local organizations, get in touch with tourism bureaus… Get creative!
[Case Study]The Roots of American Music TrailTM Visitors will explore places throughout the Muscle Shoals region in Alabama, where hundreds of rock ‘n roll, soul, pop, and R&B songs were recorded from the 1960s to today. The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is developing the trail with funding from a National Scenic Byway grant and technical assistance from the National Trust. Stories will be told in a variety of ways, including a website, cell phone tour, guided tours, and a collectors’ CD for sale. The trail will be marketed throughout the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, local convention and visitors bureaus, and the Alabama Office of Tourism.
Photos courtesy Anna Levinzon, Flickr; vastateparksstaff, Flickr; Lehigh Valley, PA, Flickr; Carolyn Brackett; Oregon Caves, Flickr; vastateparksstaff, Flickr; vastateparksstaff, Flickr; Grand Canyon National Park, Flickr; Ed Webster, Flickr; Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area