Chasing Local History

Visitors to Warren County might enjoy their experiences more if their recreation is paired up with historical information about the places they see.

A varied group of stakeholders gathered Wednesday morning to discuss a starting point for a county-wide history project.

Pennsylvania Kinzua Pathways (PKP) was the host of the event.

“PKP has always been branded a historical awareness project,” PKP’s Joe Colosimo said. “One of our concerns as a group is maybe that history gets lost as we get farther away from it.”

Instead of continuing to lose pieces that “get farther away”, PKP pulled together some of its contacts. “Our goal is to capture it on paper, capture it electronically.”

Wednesday’s meeting was intended to “start talking about this history… start relaying this information,” Colosimo said. “What stories should we be telling? What history should we be capturing?”

In attendance were representatives of the Warren County and Elk Township historical societies, the Seneca Nation, Friends of Allegheny Wilderness, the Lumber Heritage Region, Leadership Warren County, Warren Public Library, University of Pittsburgh – Bradford history and environmental science departments, and others.

“We approached it as a blank canvas,” Colosimo said. “Your passion is what’s going to drive the project.”

Each representative was given the chance to offer suggestions as to details or broad concepts that deserve special attention.

Local historian Chase Putnam and archeologist John Zavinski didn’t represent particular organizations, but were afforded deference by the rest of the panel.

The Allegheny River, the Seneca Nation, the timber industry, and Kinzua Dam were some topics that were suggested as major areas of interest. “The river is the lifeblood of this part of Pennsylvania,” Putnam said. “The Native American situation is essential. Lumbering was the industry that brought people to Warren.”

UPB environmental studies student Toby Anderson, a Warren native, will lead a team of students, all from Warren County, in determining what information needs to be collected.

Once the information is collected, the team will filter, condense, and process it.

“These are very intelligent, hard-working students who love Warren, who are very proud to be from Warren,” Anderson said of the team. “We are going to knock this thing out of the park.”

He envisions the information being valued by life-long residents as well as those who visit for a weekend.

“I think this is a great opportunity for this area,” he said. “Eco-tourism is a growing industry.”

The final forms of the information – trailhead kiosks, elementary and high school lesson plans, housed displays, electronic materials – has not been determined.

UPB Professor Steve Robar is the history and environmental science department head. “The literature pretty clearly indicates that there is a growing interest in active recreation,” he said. “But also a dynamic that people are looking for, something more… to develop a relationship with a place.”

“People want to relate and understand,” he said. “They want a relationship with the places they go.”

“This will be a planning stage for us,” Robar said. “We’re going to be reaching out to each of you… to generate those ideas and suggestions.”

Others who have suggestions for the project are asked to contact Colosimo at jpcolosimo@gmail.com.