A three-year, grassroots effort to designate the Finger Lakes region a National Heritage Corridor gained some ground this week.
Legislation recently passed by Congress authorizes funding for a feasibility study to determine if the region meets the standards for that designation.
The criteria are based on the natural and cultural assets of a place and whether it's had an impact on the growth of the nation. Cynthia Kimble, president of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, said the Finger Lakes region meets that criteria, hands-down.
"When you think about the women's rights movement that took place," she said, "the Underground Railroad that we had here; we certainly had an impact on the nation's growth; Kodak … we could go on."
There are four National Heritage areas in New York state, including the Erie Canalway and Niagara Falls.
Kimble said such a designation could increase tourism in the Finger Lakes region, which currently generates about $3 billion a year. "Number two," she added, "it would put the Finger Lakes on the national stage in a way that it hasn't been before."
The feasibility study, to be conducted by the National Parks Service, is expected to take about three years. That will include visits to the region and conversations with key stakeholders.