Author Archives: Michael Gelman

Is New Urbanism really New Urbanism?

I used to live in a New Urbanist community in Gainesville, Florida. It is called the Town of Tioga. Loved it. Unfortunately, I moved and really regretted it because it really became a mixed use development with great eateries and retail establishments. They have other businesses on site such as a dental practice and financial services office. Now, I live in one in Albuquerque called Mesa del Sol and love it, too. However, the retail and professional services are not there-at least, not yet.

What does New Urbanism mean? It refers to houses on very small lots. Little vehicular traffic that is allowed to come into a development. Areas where people can congregate and chat. Where you get to know your neighbors. “Cookie-cuttter” homes are really non-existent. Houses are built in a wide variety of architectural styles. You have stores and eateries that you can walk to-without having to get in your car and drive. You can save gas and time.

But I grew up in The Bronx in between the 1950’s-60’s. I grew up in apartment buildings. They either had a fire escape or a terrace or what I called a “suspended patio”. In one particular building that I lived in between 1956-1964, we never had to get in our car to buy food. Up the block from where we lived, we had a butcher shop, bakery, fruit/vegetable store, pharmacy, shoe repair shop and a general grocery. Across the street, two candy stores were “sandwiched” between two other apartment buildings. A candy store was also called a luncheonette which meant you could buy an “Egg Cream” (a drink composed of seltzer or sparkling water of sorts, chocolate syrup and milk-no eggs) and a grilled cheese sandwich. You could buy candy but you could also buy pink rubber balls to play stick ball and jacks or even a jump rope.

If you needed to see a doctor or dentist, you did not have to travel to some professional building. Many doctors and dentists had their offices on the first floor of an apartment building with an separate outside entrance or you could go in through the lobby. Even a veterinary hospital could be reached by walking distance. No driving to some medical complex or multi-office professional building to see a physician. Hospitals were another story-you still had to take a bus or drive to one.

Where I lived, we did not have separate abodes that either took on a Cape Cod, Victorian or Craftsman style. Or a fancy gym with the latest exercise machines, although a YMCA was within walking distance. We did have a neighborhood where people knew their neighbors and actually had live conversations with them. Folks knew the names and genders of their neighbor’s children and what their next-door inhabitants did for a living. In so many American neighborhoods today, people rush from their cars into their homes and could not care less who was living next to them unless they feel they are in immediate danger or a noisy nuisance.

So, New Urbanism isn’t new. It is really a repackaged thought concept with better architectural and landscape design that allows for much less automobile travel and gas consumption. Less vehicular traffic. Once again, it gets people out and about to communicate in person-as opposed to getting on their mobile devices and using social media. People walk and jog in New Urbanist neighborhoods. When I lived on Sheridan Avenue in our second Bronx apartment, we chatted about Willie Mays and Roger Maris on trading baseball cards and played Stick Ball. We stopped playing when a car was coming down the street. Not quite the same thing…but awfully close.

Thoughts about Tiny Houses

For quite some time now, there has been a lot of talk about Tiny Houses. Many folks do not want mega mansions or even regular sized homes from 1500-2000 square feet. There is something to be said for that. People do not want to be slaves to their homes and their furnishings. Maintenance takes time whether it is doing housework- inside or raking the leaves and mowing the lawn-outside. So many of these homes DO NOT qualify as real estate. In fact, they are RV’s (recreation vehicles) attached to a truck. Different from a Winnebago because these homes actually look like architecture. A Winnebago does not. These homes actually have a sleeping loft that you can access using a ladder.But I have an issue with these lofts. I will tell you why. The elderly should not be considering one of these homes. Unless a senior is in great physical shape and really, there are not that many seniors who are-why would you want to climb up to a loft every night to retire? What if a senior develops a neuro-muscular disease like Parkinsons or ALS or stroke -then your mobility is really restricted. Forget about the elderly for a second. What about people who are just plain clumsy or uncoordinated? I can’t in good conscience recommend that these folks consider a tiny house with a sleeping loft. Also to me-can sleep be all that comfortable? I doubt very seriously that these designers have really considered the eldercare population when designing these homes.  It just isn’t the right demographic.

My wife and I watch the Tiny House program on HGTV weekly. It is fun to watch what one individual is going to select for his or her’s mini abode after examining 3 choices-both from a standpoint of features and pricing. I do agree with the long-standing adage of Mies van der Rohe-“less is more”? But people should not have to do without a bathtub or a dishwasher, for example, if that is what they have been accustomed to. There needs to be some semblance of normalcy.  Yes, I am keenly aware of the fact that normalcy is relative”Less is more” can be achieved in a very small condo of 800-950 square footage, as opposed to 400-500 square feet. There are ways to elongate a tiny house without the use of a sleeping loft and still keep the square footage intact. In the back, you will be able to put in the bed and dresser or other storage unit.

A lot of folks simply do not have the funds to put a down payment on a house. They may not want to invest in a manufactured factory-built house. A lot of construction materials that go into the building of those houses may be deemed hazardous or have the potential of being carcinogenic. Price-wise for well under 100K, one can buy one of these houses  from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (www.tumbleweedhomes.com)  or purchase the plans and build one yourself.  For the free-spirited individual who does not want to be tied down to the land, eschews conformity and is looking for something different, living in one of those homes can be an adventure. You can even have a few friends over for refreshments and socializing.

I do recommend that folks consider other forms of unconventional shelter. There are dome houses, Quanset huts, and yurts-perhaps topics for future discussion in other blogs. Contingent on one’s “handyman” and/or construction skills, one can find a small house that needs restoration, in a secure environment, if they are willing and able to take the time to do the work. There is also the matter of structures that can be adaptively reused for housing. However, one needs to work with your local planning department to ensure that the building and construction codes are met. Also, there can be no compromise, as to health and safety.

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For quite some time now, there has been a lot of talk about Tiny Houses. Many folks do not want mega mansions or even regular sized homes from 1500-2000 square feet. There is something to be said for that. People do not want to be slaves to their homes and their furnishings. Maintenance takes time whether it is doing housework- inside or raking the leaves and mowing the lawn-outside. So many of these homes DO NOT qualify as real estate. In fact, they are RV’s (recreation vehicles) attached to a truck. Different from a Winnebago because these homes actually look like architecture. A Winnebago does not. These homes actually have a sleeping loft that you can access using a ladder.But I have an issue with these lofts. I will tell you why. The elderly should not be considering one of these homes. Unless a senior is in great physical shape and really, there are not that many seniors who are-why would you want to climb up to a loft every night to retire? What if a senior develops a neuro-muscular disease like Parkinsons or ALS or stroke -then your mobility is really restricted. Forget about the elderly for a second. What about people who are just plain clumsy or uncoordinated? I can’t in good conscience recommend that these folks consider a tiny house with a sleeping loft. Also to me-can sleep be all that comfortable? I doubt very seriously that these designers have really considered the eldercare population when designing these homes.  It just isn’t the right demographic.

My wife and I watch the Tiny House program on HGTV weekly. It is fun to watch what one individual is going to select for his or her’s mini abode after examining 3 choices-both from a standpoint of features and pricing. I do agree with the long-standing adage of Mies van der Rohe-“less is more”? But people should not have to do without a bathtub or a dishwasher, for example, if that is what they have been accustomed to. There needs to be some semblance of normalcy.  Yes, I am keenly aware of the fact that normalcy is relative”Less is more” can be achieved in a very small condo of 800-950 square footage, as opposed to 400-500 square feet. There are ways to elongate a tiny house without the use of a sleeping loft and still keep the square footage intact. In the back, you will be able to put in the bed and dresser or other storage unit.

A lot of folks simply do not have the funds to put a down payment on a house. They may not want to invest in a manufactured factory-built house. A lot of construction materials that go into the building of those houses may be deemed hazardous or have the potential of being carcinogenic. Price-wise for well under 100K, one can buy one of these houses  from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (www.tumbleweedhomes.com)  or purchase the plans and build one yourself.  For the free-spirited individual who does not want to be tied down to the land, eschews conformity and is looking for something different, living in one of those homes can be an adventure. You can even have a few friends over for refreshments and socializing.

I do recommend that folks consider other forms of unconventional shelter. There are dome houses, Quanset huts, and yurts-perhaps topics for future discussion in other blogs. Contingent on one’s “handyman” and/or construction skills, one can find a small house that needs restoration, in a secure environment, if they are willing and able to take the time to do the work. There is also the matter of structures that can be adaptively reused for housing. However, one needs to work with your local planning department to ensure that the building and construction codes are met. Also, there can be no compromise, as to health and safety.

An architectural and landscape view of Scandinavia-my recent tour

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I was most fortunate this July 2015 to have traveled to Scandinavia on a 15-day bus tour with my wife to explore the nations of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. This was my first trip to Europe. When I was a historic preservation student, I had to take several courses in architectural history-both 19th and 20th century. Hence during this tour, I was able to see a wide variety of architectural styles covering both centuries and older. But let me point out some of my observations that were made during the travel sitting on a bus, as well as, on foot. These are observations that have really stayed in my mind.

There is a lot of repetition in the architecture and landscape of the Norwegian countryside. I saw a lot of simple houses with sloping roofs at diverse angles. All part of the local folk vernacular. No familiar Greek or Roman precedents. No English Arts and Crafts.Many of those roofs showed a variety of grassy vegetation. Somewhat ubiquitous. The country side is dotted with fields of white circular casements. When I asked what those were-our guide informed that these casements contained hay. I had never seen so many dark narrow tunnels dotting the landscape after intervals of x number of miles. We passed many fjords and had the opportunity to embark on a boat voyage for 2 hours duration going around one particular fjord on one overcast morning. I found a great deal of solace touring the Norwegian countryside because there were not a lot of commercial businesses in sight. Quite a difference from the American landscape in most areas where fast-food eateries and tacky billboards abound. Yes, you will see exits where one can stop at a gas station and even see a Mc D’onalds but for the most part- commercialism is devoid to a large degree.

I could not state the same for the Danish and Swedish  countrysides. Modernist architecture prevails in the use of shipping containers wrapping up a variety of commercial enterprises. I have been a fan of such structures for some time, especially when they have been adaptive for residential usage. As an American, I wish we could take more of an interest in such containers for both commercial, as well as , residential purposes. But these businesses were also elongated rectangles of glass framed by equal expanses of steel.

When we stopped in the major capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, it is wonderful to see such architectural variety of both the new and the old. The structures that I personally appreciated the most were the Royal Palace in Copenhagen ( see upper right photo above) and the Oslo City Hall (see upper left photo). This was attributed to the fact that these particular structures were most expansive with large cavernous rooms, in which the walls were adorned with incredible tapestries and murals that not only reflected the history of these countries but provided clues to significant social change.

Ramblings-banish aggravation +follow a healthy lifestyle-part two

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In the second part of this post, I discuss ways to live a healthier life. Doesn’t mean we have to take more vitamins or eat more broccoli or increase our weight poundage of the gym? Certainly all those things are helpful and beneficial if we do. And not totally mandatory if we don’t. My uncle used to say (and I am sure others have said it too):”What kills people is aggravation”, sometimes it is not their diet or how much alcohol they have consumed but the stress of taking life and people way too seriously. Take the emotion of anger, for example, which being aware that one is “ticked” off is good but letting it get out of control is not. For example, you can have a totally awful day at the office where nothing is going right and even have an argument with your boss. When quitting time comes around, you might say to yourself: “I really need a drink and cannot wait to head for the neighborhood bar”. Or you can say” I cannot wait to go home and tell my wife”. But when you get home, she has a great meal (so you think and love): meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, a vegetable, white bread, butter, soda pop (your favorite Mountain Dew or Dr.Pepper) followed by apple pie and ice cream. And then spend a couple of night viewing whatever is on the “telly” till the next night.  Read this carefully-do not medicate yourself with food or drink. Ever. Are there better ways to relieve stress? Obviously. Naturally. Of course, there are. So here is the list:

1-Work out. Exercise. Ride a stationary bike-lift weights-do yoga, Pilates, shoot hoops at a neighborhood court, bike, play tennis or any other sport. BUT JUST DO IT and DO IT 5x a week-at a minimum of 3 if you cannot do 5. Do work up a sweat

2-DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL-sorry, booze kills brain cells; DONT DRINK SODAS (DIET OR otherwise)-loaded with sugar AND all the other ones have chemicals and additives (btw-I am so guilty of this because I do love Diet Coke and a mean draft root beer once in a while-it is something I have to work on, as well as, drink way less) and ALL CAFFEINATED BEVERAGES, which by overdoing them can give you the jitters or even gastric reflux. Sorry, I do not mean to offend you Starbucks

3-Pray and/or Meditate-do you have a specific faith or denomination that you attend? If so, go regularly if you can. Do you pray or meditate or have a regular spiritual practice that you do on a daily basis? If so, do it. Nothing beats having to take your problems and issues to a higher power and letting that Higher Power deal with it.

4-Get a pet-if you are tense and upset, a pet will lower your blood pressure, as well as, reassure you that all is going to be ok. Just hold Fido or Tabby after a miserable day at work and see how you will start to simmer down. For folks who are alone and do not have a spouse or an engaging support system, pets offer unconditional love and acceptance.

5-Take up and enjoy a hobby that is fun and appropriate for you. Whether you love foreign films, collect stamps, do woodworking or hook rugs or anything that mentally engages you, this can be a real stress reliever to take your mind off aggravation.

6-Look at such holistic health modalities to relieve stress such as Bach Flower Remedies, aromatherapy, massage therapy in  its various forms such as deep tissue and Thai.

7-Volunteer for an organization where you can take your mind off YOU and YOUR PROBLEMS and dedicate yourself to those who have much less and more problems than you do.

8-finally EAT RIGHT and EAT clean-less meat, more fruits and vegetables, try to eliminate white flour from your diet and radically cut down on SUGAR which does kill. And remember to live day by day which all we can really do-let tomorrow take care of itself.

MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY

Neuroses-mental or psychiatric illnesses which is dominated by anxiety as the main component

Stressors-situations or events that evoke emotional and physical stress in individuals.

 

Ramblings on healthy eating, no-smoking and the fast food industry-part one

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In this first-part blog post, suggestions are not only offered on how folks can improve their health and chances for greater longevity but for many fast food companies to think about they serve folks all over the world.

Let’s take food-specifically fast food. Many people who eat at Mc Donalds, Wendy’s, BK, etc. have elevated trigylcerides (blood fats) and diabetes-not to mention hypertension and other ailments. They should not be eating hamburger buns that are made with white flour, for example, as well as, “white” French fries. It amazes me that chains such as Fuddrucker’s now offer (in most stores) the option of whole wheat buns and sweet potato fries (not the best but better than “regular” fries. At least, Subway and some of the other submarine sandwich chains like Quizno’s and Firehouse Subs do offer whole wheat rolls. Mc D’s and those other chains initially mentiloned should do Americans a favor by at least providing whole wheat buns and sweet spud fries, as an option. Then you have some chains such as Chipotle who on one hand, offer brown rice but do not offer whole wheat tortillas. They should be consistent and offer both brown rice and whole wheat tortillas. Can you imagine if consumers chose all those healthy whole wheat options? Would national high triglycerides and diabetes rates decrease? One could only hope.

Then what about beverages. I think it is sad when you see an overweight teen coming out of a Starbucks with a Venti- or Grande- size coffee beverage that is laden with whipped cream on top and drizzled with syrup. You wonder what that teen could drink for a healthy substitute that would not be loaded with sugar. While I personally do not drink coffee these days or will ever touch “java” again, it would still be better for that teen provided that regular milk and sugar would be added. The enriched waters with mild flavoring or plain H2O bottled are always the best choices.

Fruits and vegetables, fish-two times per week, much less meat, whole grains and dedicating at least a couple of days a week to meat-free diet are the way to go. While being vegan or lacto-vegetarian might seem like the way to go, these regimens are not for everybody. Better to be “reasonable” meat eater than a lacto-ovo vegetarian who is munching on grilled cheese sandwiches, French fries and pizza most days of the week. Desserts and sweets in general, should be a “no-brainer”-“way, way, way in moderation. And that means what you think moderation should be-once a week for some; twice a month for others. You cannot go through life without a good piece of apple pie, a dish of ice cream or etc, etc. etc….

Aside from food, the most insane habit, that you can ever have in your repertoire of daily behaviors is TOBACCO CONSUMPTION. There is enough evidence over decades that tells us that smoking is just plain wrong. It does not matter if is cigarettes with a filter or no filter, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco or now, E-cigs. I suspect that there are folks that say” Oh, I’ll never get lung cancer”. Well, if you do not get lung cancer-praise God-but you could die of a myocardial infarction or emphysema, if you smoke cigarettes. If you are a cigar smoker, jaw cancer could be a possibility. If you love chewing tobacco, a head and neck malignancy might develop and so on. Whatever your preference for tobacco is-quit and quit now. There is the patch. There are medications like Chantix. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian-based denomination, known for its hospitals worldwide and wonderful health message, has a 7-day smoking cessation program that has been most successful in getting folks to stop lightning up. You do not have to be a slave and chained to this dangerous addiction.

In the next blog post after this one-I will discuss a few more ideas and concepts to improve health and longevity while living on Planet Earth.

Medical Terminology

Myocardial infarction-the scientific term for “heart attack”.

Pneumogastric – Pertaining to the lungs and the stomach.

 

The Homogenization of America

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I get mentally exhausted from viewing the homogenization of America. What do I mean by that? I get tired of seeing so many cities in this country with the “same old, same old” big box stores. Walgreens, CVS’s, Bed, Bath and Linens, “Golden Arches”, Pep Boys, et cetera, et cetera… It isn’t just the Big Boxes but tons of parking lots. Whether they are garages, municipal spaces or surrounded by green shrubbery gates creating an ultimate Fung Shui from hell, America is always built on the continuance of the automobile. We love our cars. Television loves our cars. The dealerships can’t wait for us to come in and spend our hard-earned money on the latest SUV or crossover vehicle.Why else are we bombarded by commercials for Subaru, Dodge, Chevrolet, etc., every day when we look at the idiot box? Can you imagine if we were bombarded by commercials for walking tours or bicycle rides? Walking tours through some of our most cherished American cities? Bicycle tours throughout America’s most exciting rural landscapes? We would not be mentally exhausted, as I am, but physically recharged. We would be revived and regenerated. Those commercials are not going to happen, at least, not yet soon, in my opinion.

The next best and most obvious, is that we must continue to preserve our most cherished places and artifacts of the past. So, how do we do that? We become aware of what is going on in our own neighborhoods and cities. We attend historic preservation meetings that are going to be open to the public-especially if a celebrated old structure is in the process of being demolished. We join local preservation groups in our hometown and national organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We visit such places that have wonderful historic districts in cities like Charleston, New Orleans, Savannah, Williamsburg and so many more. We support the local economy when we stay in a historic hotel in that destination of choice. We read not only about old buildings and communities but Civil War battlefields, as well as, areas that once were company towns in New England, among other regions. We engage in festivals and celebrations that have long been part of our community’s traditions. We engage. Period.

We need to ask ourselves if a company like CVS comes into our town and they want to bring one of their commonplace designs-can they take over a historic building and provide their services in that same structure? If they say yes and are amenable to that idea, will we support them? It is my express wish that they do exactly that. Can we talk to our developers about taking an old factory that has been abandoned for a half century and persuade them to convert this space into condos or housing for seniors in their golden years? I hope we can. Apathy is a disease, folks. Regret is useless. The more we engage, as opposed to, disengage-we have the power to “un-homogenize’ America and make our communities look “heterogenous” instead by preserving our heritage, creating jobs and making our neighborhoods unique. Are we up to that challenge? Our children, grandchildren and generations-to-come after that will be most grateful.

Somaticization Disorders-do you have one?

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Somatization Disorders? What are they? Do you or know someone who has one? There are people who get up everyday and all day long, they begin to imagine the worse. They feel that they have some dreaded neurological disease. Maybe it is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease named after the famed Yankee baseball star? Perhaps it is Parkinson’s Disease? Could be Multiple Sclerosis? Somaticizers are those who feel that they have the symptoms of such diseases that run through their minds. They have tingling in their legs. They think they are experiencing foot drop when they walk. But it is not just neurological diseases. But all diseases. If they have heartburn, they may think that they are having a heart attack. If they have a cough, they think that they may have some sort of respiratory disorder. And this will go on and on. Those that suffer from somatization disorders feel that they have to engage in extensive internet searching to see if their symptoms match up with what they find online. This searching, of itself, can turn into a futile effort, when there is so much information that is inaccurate and cannot be trusted. If they are not searching and reading, then they are rushing to doctors offices and emergency rooms. They plead with their physician to run tests that may not only be expensive but add further detriment to their health and pinpoint other problems. So what can be done to help the patient with this type of mentally debilitating disorder?

If you or a loved one is suffering from a somatization disorder, the worse thing that you can say to this person, is that “it is all in your head”. That may very well be true but it is an insensitive approach and will not help that individual. Patients with this illness need to discuss their specific situation with their physician. While it is always important to check things out that may or may not exist, it is equally important to assess these findings in themselves. If your doctor is a family medicine or internal medicine specialist, he or she may want to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication, as well as, refer you to a psychiatrist who specializes in psychosomatic medicine. One of the best approaches that is used is CBT-which stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

CBT follows the premise that if patients can talk about their feelings and emotions, with respect to their phobias, for example, with a trained therapist, they can get a handle on what they can transcend or manage their fears. CBT is a short-term therapy but has proven to be very effective. Coupled with the right anti-anxiety medication such as Zoloft, can be very effective. If you or a loved one is suffering from a somatization disorder, do not wait and talk to your physician. Also take the time to get the tests and procedures, if your physician feels that they necessary to provide you with peace of mind and be free of unwanted worry. You owe it to yourself.

MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY

Briquet’s Syndrome-a synonym or alternate name for somatization disorder.

DSM-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-standard classification system for psychological and neurological diseases and disorders.

Heritage Tourism-shared experiences

 

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Heritage Tourism? What is it? We know that tourism is travel-whether we go to France or England or Australia-we can be considered tourists. Sometimes people say things like “Well, we did not go anywhere but we played tourist in our own town”. What is meant by heritage? Some ask others:” What is your heritage?” Some will say Russian, English…maybe even Italian or Irish. But heritage is history and it is about place. It is what people who have lived in a given area for a particular period of time are most proud of.

Many years ago in the late 1990’s,  I did a month’s long internship in Coral Gables, Florida. It wasn’t for the City of Coral Gables but at the Fairchild Tropical Garden (see above photo). The FTG is an enormous source of pride for the residents of the City of Coral Gables and if it is not, it should be. Why? It is considered to be the largest tropical garden in the United States and was designed by Williams Lyman Phillips who was a protégé of the Olmstead School. Frederick Law Olmstead was the Father of Landscape Architecture. A discussion of this particular garden is beyond the scope and intent of this blog. However, I do want to state with all of its beautiful views from a variety of angles and gorgeous landscaped walkways, it represents one of the most significant sites of heritage tourism for the City of Coral Gables . It has been in existence since the 1930’s. This garden, not only represents one of Phillips famous (I think it is his most famous) work but also the horticultural specimens that Dr. David Fairchild, the renowned plant explorer of the United States Department of Agriculture, brought from all over the world to this site.

Heritage Tourism does not just encompass institutions such as museums and botanical gardens. It encompasses much more. Historical battlefields, rivers, trails, urban districts and neighborhoods, rural agricultural communities,; sites where old industrial mills were located and so much more. It is about place and what makes a place special from a historical point of view. The landmarks of a given place reveal some interesting stories of the activities that transpired. These landmarks may indicate how the locals earned their livelihood and may still be working at the same occupations that their ancestors did. Heritage tourism also speaks to the goods and products that were derived from these industries.

Want to know more about Heritage Tourism? Walk or drive if you can around your town. Look at your parks and individual neighborhoods. Are certain areas known for a certain type of architectural style? Are their town squares where folks have been congregating for ages to discuss the newsworthy events of the day? Did a famous celebrity live in a certain house that is still standing because a community preservation association took pains to keep it from the wrecking ball?

Everybody wins when they invest in Heritage Tourism. Tourists visiting a given area have a much more enriched holiday or vacation experience when they visit one or more historic places. Tour operators have the opportunity of creating exciting venues and excursions based on the notable features of their respective areas. Residents delight when out-of-town visitors come and spend money on goods made and/or sold by local businesses. Residents need not exclude themselves from heritage tourism experiences, as well. Play “tourist” in your own backyard. If there are neighborhoods, museums, battlefields and other sites that you have not ever seen-go visit them. You may gain a perspective on your community that you never had before.