This month, there has been significant progress in one of Calumet Collaborative’s core initiatives of advancing a Calumet National Heritage Area. National Heritage Areas are lived-in landscapes where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a nationally important place. A Calumet National Heritage Area tells the story of the resilient people and nature that call the region home and embraces the region’s industrial innovation and transformation. Telling this story unifies the Calumet, and a positive, cohesive perception of this region will bring an abundance of opportunities to residents and visitors alike.
The Calumet Collaborative and Calumet Heritage Partnership have established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and formed a coordinating committee that aims to gain national designation for a Calumet Heritage Area by the United States Congress. This committee will advance on the ground efforts as a Heritage Area even if no national designation is received. A Calumet Heritage Area will bring a sense of pride to the residents, make visible the rich natural and cultural assets so they can be enjoyed, and create economic opportunities for the region through job creation and contribution to local economies.
In mid-May, the Calumet Heritage Partnership submitted its final revision of the Calumet National Heritage Area Initiative Feasibility Study to the National Park Service (NPS). The feasibility study makes the case for legislation to be introduced to the United States Congress, who ultimately designates National Heritage Areas (NHAs). The Park Service advises Congress on NHA designations; in the case of the Calumet region, whether to create what would be the nation's 50th such entity. In 2014, the feasibility study process was initiated, and a draft study was released for public comment in 2016. The formal feasibility study submission to the NPS in July 2017 included public comments and their responses, along with nearly 80 letters of support.
“The National Park Service's response to the feasibility study submission was very positive. It also opened an opportunity to think more deeply about the study, and to incorporate their suggestions into this revised version. We look forward to their response to this version,” says Mark Bouman, who is the Chicago Region Program Director in the Keller Science Action Center at the Field Museum. Mark serves as the Co-Chair of the Calumet Collaborative Board of Directors, and as a board member and Past President of the Calumet Heritage Partnership that has advocated for the area for nearly two decades. “To be clear, the Park Service's response is advisory, as it's Congress who ultimately decides whether a National Heritage Area is to be created or not. But one thing the very process of working on a study like this has pointed out: in many ways we already have a Calumet Heritage Area, with nationally significant stories and partners ready to tell them. We're all eager to move forward with these on the ground efforts, and the partners are doing that now.”
The story of the Calumet Region is beginning to be captured in a regional Identity and Branding exercise. A brand that unifies the region will be key for the Calumet Heritage Area. “Creating a unified brand for the bi-state Calumet area will have tourism and economic benefits for all of us,” said Mandy Burrell Booth, communications senior, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. “We hope it will draw more visitors to the region and raise awareness among locals about the many incredible places and stories our region has to offer.”
This May, Mandy Burrell Booth helped lead an Identity and Branding exercise with the Calumet Collaboration’s Communications Committee. Over a course of 3 informative and productive meetings, the Communications Committee identified available resources that tell the story of the Calumet. The committee also determined work that needs to be done to create the Identity and Branding for the Calumet region. The output is a roadmap that will be used to bring the Identity and Branding of the Calumet to life. This includes community engagement on a proposed identity and brand, wayfinding products and design specifications, and a toolkit for wayfinding implementation.
Telling the stories of the Calumet region creates a sense of place, which is crucial for the transformation of the region into a thriving place to live, work, and play. If you are interested in being a part of this effort, there are many opportunities to add your voice to the Calumet National Heritage Area and Wayfinding initiatives. Please reach out to Ashley to find out how you can become involved at Ashley@calumetcollaborative.org.