But his presentation at the commissioners' regular Wednesday meeting was called a "political set-up" because it comes about two weeks before the primary election in the county commissioners race.
Some believe the election will hinge largely on the public's view of the county's divisive heritage park project.
John Cosgrove, executive director of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, said yesterday that heritage tourism is rapidly growing. A 2005 study showed that visitors to the 24 national heritage areas in existence at that time spent about $8.5 billion, he said.
There are now 37 national heritage areas, said Cosgrove, whose group aims to educate policy makers and the public about the benefits of heritage areas.
Tourism dollars help drive the economy by creating and sustaining new jobs, he said. Earnings are then re-invested into the community, which benefits through an increase in the quality of life, he said.
Spending: $35 million: Proponents of the county's park project have estimated that it will bring in more than $35 million in annual visitor spending once fully operational.
"I've seen what heritage development can do to positively influence the quality of life in my community," Cosgrove, from Scranton, told commissioners.
Before he spoke, opponents of the county's park project contradicted his presentation by saying the county's park project would bring in little or no more money than the land's current use.
County commissioners Lori Mitrick and Doug Kilgore want to create a heritage park of about 725 acres in Lower Windsor Township. Fellow commissioner Steve Chronister is opposed.
Both Kilgore and Mitrick have twice authorized the use of eminent domain for the project, first for an 80-acre property called Highpoint. They later approved seizing 410 acres of Lauxmont Farms, which is owned by the Kohr family.
The family raises livestock and hosts weddings on the farm.
Betsy Kohr said people sometimes spend tens of thousands of dollars on weddings at the farm. She doubted whether the county could bring in more economic development through a heritage park.
Pie in the sky: "It's all selfish behavior and grandiose ideas of some fantasy," she said.
After the commissioners' meeting, Chronister said the timing of the presentation seemed a bit too much of a coincidence with the election approaching.
"It was a political set-up," he said. "Why was that made two weeks before the election?"
The most important part of the presentation, Chronister said, was when Cosgrove acknowledged that many heritage projects are a public-private partnership.
"If anything came out of that, it showed that eminent domain doesn't have to be used," he said. "Things can be worked out with homeowners to save the land. That just isn't happening."
Park proponents discounted claims that the timing of Cosgrove's presentation was politically motivated.
"He's been planning to come for some time," Kilgore said. "It suited this week."
Cosgrove was invited by the Lancaster-York Heritage Region, said that group's president, Mark Platts, a park proponent.
"I can't help they scheduled a primary in the middle of National Preservation Month," Platts said.
"We're looking for opportunities to share information about others that have gone through this," he added.
He said the park project will offer the county extensive benefits in the future.
-- Reach Carl Lindquist at 505-5432 or email@example.com.