June 2, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Putting Detroit area history on the tourist map

The story of Detroit includes the Ford Piquette Plant, home of the Model T, which is being set up for a wedding. Local tour operator Karin Risko is launching an online “heritage trail” of historical sites and nearby shops and restaurants. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

Local tour operator Karin Risko thinks too many of Metro Detroit's historical gems are being overlooked.

The Grosse Ile resident wants to do something about it.

Risko's company, Hometown History Tours, is launching a website touting a Michigan "heritage trail" of historical sites and nearby shops and restaurants.

"We don't tell our story very well. We have so much going on here," she said. That story includes autos (the Ford Piquette Plant, home of the Model T), aviation (Yankee Air Museum) and warfare (Fort Wayne).

The goal is to draw people to the area and persuade them to stay a while. Risko said the map will extend as far west as Jackson and east to Port Huron. "It's going to cut a pretty wide swath," she said.

"I'm going to start the map and let people add to it."

More businesses and organizations are promoting Metro Detroit's historical and cultural attractions, said Dave Lorenz, spokesman for Travel Michigan. Visitors seek information to have a more authentic experience, he said. "They want to learn about a community that they visit."

Scott Bentley, superintendent for the River Raisin Battlefield National Park in Monroe, said an effort like Risko's could draw visitors to the park, which opened to the public last month.

"Certainly, it's going to help us by getting the word out," he said. "National parks draw an audience from all over the world."

The tourism industry can help boost local economies, Bentley said. "What folks look for are individuals coming into the community from outside bringing in new dollars," he said.

cwilliams@detnews.com

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