Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc. (CRNHA), a regional non-profit organization focused on heritage conservation and economic development, has announced the acquisition of the former Hancock-Whitney Bank building located at 4115 University Parkway. The property will serve as the new headquarters for the organization and future home of the Cane River Discovery Center.
Currently located at 1115 Washington St., the Cane River NHA team will relocate to the new headquarters by the end of 2021. “Since its creation in 1994, this organization has focused on creating partnerships and programs that leverage preservation, enhance education and drive economic development primarily through heritage tourism in the Cane River region,” said Board Chairman David Dollar. “In more than just a symbolic way, we’re returning to the pre-colonial route of the El Camino Real corridor which connected the Spanish, French, Native Americans and Africans to Natchitoches, and in doing so, we will become part of the recent and future tourism developments along the Hwy. 6 corridor.”
Positioned near the newly developed Parc Natchitoches recreation complex, the Grady Erwin Nature Preserve and the Dark Woods Adventure Park, the new headquarters location will strengthen visibility for the Cane River National Heritage Area and its projects. “The opportunity for CRNHA to acquire, renovate and repurpose this property comes at a strategic time for us. As we look to the future of the heritage tourism industry in the Natchitoches area, it’s important that we identify new markets and potential products we can help develop to expand tourism in the region as well as enable our organization’s growth,” said Rebecca Blankenbaker, CRNHA Executive Director. “Public history, cultural conservation, and historic preservation will always be cornerstones of our work, and with this new facility, we will be able to showcase that work better as well as execute our vision of expanding outdoor recreation and conservation in the region.”
“We are delighted that this new space will also allow us to design and introduce a unique and authentic- to-Cane-River, Discovery Center — a ‘go-to’ destination where people living in or visiting Natchitoches — can spark their imaginations about our rich history, unique cultures, and outdoor recreation,” said Blankenbaker. “With this new property, we are even better positioned to work with partners to develop and offer new options, including an even more textured, enjoyable, and memorable experience of the Cane River region.”
Plans for the Discovery Center are in the beginning stages, with projected completion by Winter 2023. “This is legacy work that we’re doing,” said Dollar, “The Cane River Discovery Center is a legacy project that the people of Natchitoches will be able to enjoy and take pride in for generations to come.”
Congress created the Cane River National Heritage Area in 1994 to recognize and protect the region’s diverse and nationally significant heritage. Since that time, the Heritage Area team has used a grassroots, community-driven approach to further heritage conservation and economic development in the Natchitoches area. By cultivating public-private partnerships, the Cane River National Heritage Area has invested more than $5.9 million in funding to support 375 projects in the region in critical areas, including Historic Preservation, Cultural Conservation, Outdoor Recreation & Conservation, Capacity Building, and Heritage Tourism.