I Heart Heritage! with Lisa Lyons of Small Planet Communications

i heart heritage banner is an interview series to highlight and celebrate Essex Heritage’s diverse community of partners and supporters. This fall we asked Lisa Lyons, Director of New Business Development at Small Planet Communications -- and just elected to our Board in October 2015 -- to share her view of Essex Heritage and why she loves the Essex National Heritage Area.

Photo of Lisa Lyons, Essex Heritage Trustee

Are you an Essex National Heritage Area (Essex County) native? If not, when and why did you move here?
I'm not from this area. I grew up in Franklin, Massachusetts. I became enamored with Essex County in the early 90s when I worked in Andover and was consistently drawn to Newburyport, Rowley, and Essex. Scenic drives, antique shops, galleries, and local theater held incredible charm for me. The vast panoramic views of marshes and stretches of beach on Plum Island, and the Merrimack River were also appealing. Increasingly, with information becoming more readily available on the Internet, I became aware of more Essex-area hidden gems and cultural happenings.

What do you find most inspiring about the Essex National Heritage Area?
I think the colors of seasons are most inspiring. Each season has unique beauty and color and interest. I'm fascinated when I'm driving along back roads and get to see daily changes in the foliage -– the blooms and vibrant greens in spring, or the warm glows of the leaves when they turn in the fall, or the stark contrasts after a snow fall or the muted grays of a dreary day.

What is your favorite place in the Essex National Heritage Area?
This is a tough question because I love peaceful places and enjoy a long walk on a quiet beach or a scenic hiking trail, but I also enjoy community events like concerts and festivals. If I had to choose, though, I'd have to say I love my (now) home town of Salem and its rich, maritime history. I'm amazed when I read about the stories that unfolded here in its heyday. Also, at any given time, I can walk out my front door and see something awesome –- Federal architecture, gardens at the Ropes Mansion, or talented street performers and musicians. I'll always see the latest exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum and I love to take a trolley ride just for fun and learn something new. Hanging out on Winter Island is one of my most favorite pastimes.

When did you first become involved with Essex Heritage? 
I was fortunate to take part in a few of the regional education forums sponsored by Essex Heritage. They were incredibly well-developed and featured passionate, engaging speakers. I met wonderful people from other Essex National Heritage Area historical societies and local museums, too, and learned about their offerings and events. It was amazing to find out how many more hidden gems this area had to offer.

What is your most memorable Essex Heritage moment, event, or program? 
There was an educational session for teachers held at Martime Gloucester and one of the presenters was a high school math teacher from Amesbury. She had partnered with Lowell's Boat Shop, also in Amesbury, to come up with a hands-on math program –- Math on the Merrimack-- that would have students apply their knowledge to analyze river depths, take angle measurements, collect data, and map out the Merrimack River bank. Two of her students told us about their adventures using various measuring tools and learning how to row a dory. It was pretty impressive. Another teacher talked about his partnership with Maritime Gloucester on a program to teach his elementary students about navigation, the environment, and how to conduct water quality analysis. The day was capped off with a trip to the Cape Ann Museum. It was one of the best days ever.

Essex Heritage is important to me because… 
The more I find out about the area, the more I want to experience and learn more! In this age of technology and a seemingly hyper existence, the Essex Heritage provides opportunities to step back, slow down, and take in memorable and meaningful experiences close to home. It's an incredible resource for enrichment programs and recreational activities for people of all ages.

Essex Heritage is important to our region, our state, or our nation because…
It seems that there's a lot of growth and building development in this area. To have Essex Heritage take the lead on preserving iconic and historic properties and land is significant. By sponsoring events like Trails & Sails and hosting education programs, we all (residents and vistors to the area) are enlightened benefactors.

Help us continue to connect people and the places that make our Heritage. Become an Essex Heritage Member.