Home News Ross County’s National Park in “World Heritage: It’s Everyone’s Business”

Ross County’s National Park in “World Heritage: It’s Everyone’s Business”

Chris Alford, superintendent of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

Ross County & Hopewellian Ohio — Around 2,000 years ago, American Indians built complexes of monumental mounds and earthen enclosures in the Ohio Valley region. Five of them in what is now Ross County have been become parts of a national park.

Last fall, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park became 5/8ths of the “Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks” World Heritage listing. Its superintendent, Chris Alford, was one of three speakers at a session on June 20th intended to inform the local business community about opportunities with anticipated tourism.

Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Throne (left) emcees speakers Chris Alford, superintendent of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (middle); and Matt MacLaren, travel and tourism policy director for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

In the short seminar, “World Heritage: It’s Everyone’s Business,” Alford said that when he was selected to head the small park in the summer of 2022, one of the first things that he asked for were funds to expand the facilities.

The World Heritage effort had been under way for several years, and he said he knew what it would require of the park. Already, he says current visitation is almost maxing out the facilities. He wants to see it expand, but acknowledges that there needs to be a balance with preserving culturally sensitive sites.

Alford said there has already been about a 60% increase in visitation since September’s World Heritage listing, and there are estimates that it could get up to 150%. He also expects more international tourists next year – while American may plan a trip only three days in advance, world travelers often plan a year ahead.

Alford said he also visits national parks as a hobby, and has been to 22 of them. He has been in the Park Service about 29 years, and this is his third World Heritage park he has worked at, after Mammoth Cave and Redwoods.

But Chillicothe and Ross County’s relationship with the Hopewell Culture park is different from the other two, he says – they had notoriety before their World Heritage inscription, so it had less effect on them, and their neighboring communities were less less engaged in the process. Alford says there is also more opportunity here to engage because this is a smaller community.

Hear him in his own words in the below video interview. Also learn more in the first of my three stories on this seminar, as well as my interview with the Ohio Chamber travel and tourism policy director.

After the seminar in the Majestic Theatre.

There are eight parks in Ohio in the World Heritage Designation:

  • Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Ross County, which is comprised by Mound City Group, Hopewell Mound Group, Seip Earthworks, High Bank Earthworks, and Hopeton Earthworks
  • Ohio History Connection’s state parks in Newark: Octagon Earthworks and Great Circle Earthworks
  • And Ohio History Connection’s state park Fort Ancient Earthworks near Oregonia and Lebanon in Warren County