Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area (OHCHA) is a non-profit, membership organization encompassing Appalachian Ohio’s original 29 designated counties, plus Fairfield and Pickaway. Our goal is to promote heritage activities throughout the region and to provide networking opportunities for individuals, organizations, and communities interested in the preservation and appropriate development of the historical, cultural, recreational, and economic resources of the region.
The development of Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area gives communities, organizations and individuals opportunities to network with others, learn from successes and failures elsewhere, explore opportunities for cooperation and collaboration, create a greater sense of shared natural and cultural heritage, develop and renew connections, increase the effectiveness of financial and human resources, and plan proactively for the benefit of the region.
The History of OHCHA
In 1996, the Ohio Arts Council spearheaded an initiative to develop a Regional Heritage Area Program in southeastern Ohio. Led by Nancy Recchie and Pat Henahan, a group of stakeholders launched a series of public meetings and established a plan for action. Funding for the program was short lived. On May 17, 2000, OHCHA was awarded official Heritage Area Status by Governor Taft and the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism. Funding from these sources was provided for two years, before state budget cuts forced abandonment of funded state heritage areas. Despite this disappointment, OHCHA has persisted as a grassroots voluntary membership organization. OHCHA has many accomplishments to celebrate with an eye toward the future of supporting and enhancing the Appalachian region which it represents. Among those accomplishments include:
- Make A Difference Day Mini-Grant Program Funding projects in 29 counties.
- A Heritage Award Program that recognizes inspiring practices around the region.
- An annual Appalachian Heritage Luncheon at the Ohio Statehouse where “Appalachian success stories” are shared and recognized by legislators and guests.
- A Civic Tourism initiative that led to the creation of a “Roamin’ the Hills” strategy that highlights the many historical assets of the region through special programs and guided tours.
- Undertaking fiscal sponsorship of the Ohio Paw Paw Festival in Albany, Ohio which celebrates Ohio’s Native Fruit and the heritage of the region.
- The Winding Road Initiative in the Hocking-Muskingum Valley sub-region of OHCHA, which focuses on experiential tourism that guides visitors and local residents to the region’s many authentic assets in six sectors: heritage, outdoor recreation, the arts, education, local foods and tourism related businesses.
- The establishment of OHCHA headquarters in the historic remnant mining town of Shawnee which serves as an example to all who value historic sites in the region.
OHCHA is governed and managed by a volunteer board which meets on a regular basis and takes on management roles of the organization. Board members and their hometowns are:
- Tom O’Grady, Stockport, President
- Tim Traxler, Millfield, Vice President
- Amy Grove, Stockport, Secretary
- John Winnenberg, Glouster, Treasurer
- Joyce Barrett, Columbus
- Ben Carpenter, Somerset
- Pat Henahan, Columbus
- Diana Marvel, Athens
- Alicia Caton, Shawnee
- Evan Shaw, Meigs County
Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area office is located in the historic coal mining community of Shawnee which is surrounded by the Wayne National Forest in southern Perry County.
Ohio Hill Country Heritage Area
P. O. Box 6; 117 West Main Street
Shawnee, Ohio 43782
Facebook: Ohio Hill Country Heritage Area
Visit the Winding Road Market Place located at our Shawnee Headquarters
Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Program envisions people working together to identify, conserve and develop appropriately, the natural, cultural, recreational, and economic resources that make up Appalachia Ohio to enhance the quality of life of the region’s residents and to welcome visitors to experience the area’s rich heritage, natural beauty, and traditions.
Why is a Heritage Area Appropriate for Ohio’s Hill Country?
- The region has a rich heritage! The region’s history has a cultural overlay on its unique natural environment contributes to its sense of place. Human settlement, including prehistoric settlement, helped to shape the region’s physical character and cultural heritage. The transportation network of rivers and streams, early roads, canals and railroads influenced where and how settlement took pace. The region’s raw material, including coal, clay, iron, oil and gas, contributes to the industrial development of region. The combination of transportation and industrial development led to immigration by diverse people from other states and from abroad. All of these forces joined to form the distinct cultural heritage of the region.
- The region has a distinctive sense of place…. It is in the unglaciated area of the of the state and its topography is visually distinctive. Its hills and valleys, rural wooded areas, rivers, streams and watersheds create the most diverse and beautiful natural environment in the state.
- The region has many ongoing and planned activities, attractions and programs that are compatible with a heritage area program. Ohio’s hill country has a number of organizations and communities developing excellent programs enhanced through traditional arts, state parks, a national forest, and activities and attractions that contribute to the quality of life in the region that offers opportunities to share traditions and culture with visitors.
- The region has a number of regional and local non-profit organizations that play a significant role in the heritage program. Existing non-profit organizations make positive contributions in the areas of identifying assets and challenges and developing strategic directions for individual communities, as well as the region. The nonprofit organizations complement activities of the more established education, religious and government institutions.
- The region needs sustainable economic development activity. Although the region is rich in natural and cultural resources, it is in great need of economic development activities that can support current and future generations. Heritage area programs encourage sustainable economic development that uses resources to meet current needs while it ensures that adequate resources will be available for future generations. Sustainable development opportunities exist in agriculture, cultural tourism, conservation of the natural environment, the arts and cottage industries.