The Case for the Calumet National Heritage Area
February 25, 2014
National Heritage Areas (NHAs) can be useful for environmental, historical, and cultural preservation. This could certainly be the case for areas like the Calumet Region of Indiana and Illinois at the southern end of Lake Michigan. The region has great ecological significance, cultural diversity, and economic might but is now grappling with questions of regional direction in the wake of widespread deindustrialization.
The idea of designating the Calumet as a NHA grew from a 1998 feasibility study by the National Park Service, which although rejecting the creation of a national "ecological park" in the Calumet, suggested the region contained elements that could be brought together to form a National Heritage Area. The Calumet Heritage Partnership, formed as a result of the study, has worked to keep the Heritage Area idea alive. Participants at a Calumet Summit last spring gave impetus to the idea by overwhelmingly identifying the creation of a NHA as a top priority for the region. Current planning efforts like the Millennium Reserve Initiative in Illinois and the Marquette Plan in Indiana recognize the potential of an NHA to link a possible Pullman National Historical Park to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
In this program, Drs. Mark Bouman, from the Field Museum, and William Peterman, professor emeritus at Chicago State University, introduced the concept of National Heritage Areas with examples of successful NHAs in other parts of the country; discussed why NHAs should be of interest to planners; and showed how the creation of a Calumet NHA would be consistent with and augment existing and evolving plans for the Calumet region.