AUBURN — Auburn Mayor Michael Quill said Friday night that listening to Michael Deming and Frank Barrows talk is like the start of a roller-coaster ride that is still going uphill.
Deming, who is the chair of the City of Auburn's Historic Resources Review Board, and Barrows, who is the superintendent of Fort Stanwix National Monument at the National Park Service, discussed the importance of Auburn's past and how it can influence its future.
Friday night's presentation, "Celebrating 50 years of National Historic Preservation and 25 Years for the South St. Historic District" included discussions about the importance of plans for the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, and what that would mean for the community.
Barrows was able to provide audience members a glimpse into what that roller-coaster ride in free fall would look like.
"What does a national park bring to a community?" Barrows said. "We bring a global audience. National parks host more visitors annually than Disney World, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL and NASCAR combined. I'm going to say that again. Because the combined part is the most important part of that."
Barrows said there were approximately 305 million visitors to national parks last year, and the economic impact of those visitors was about $32 billion. Narrowing it down to New York state, Barrows said visitors spent about $600 million in communities with national parks.
But beyond the economic impact that a national park would have, Barrows and Deming discussed the sense of pride historical preservation brings to a community. Deming pointed out the many homeowners on South Street, who have fixed up some major undertakings to preserve the history and character of the city.
"It takes money, and it takes more passion," Deming said. "You buy it for the love and the joy for living there."
Turning to Harriet Tubman's homestead, Barrows said that, too, would foster pride in the young and the old who call Auburn home. It's another source of community and national identity.
"It means something to say, 'I'm from the city where Harriet Tubman lived,'" he said.