On January 31st, NPS Director John Jarvis spoke at the annual meeting for the Alliance of National Heritage Areas in Washington D.C. Also in attendance were Associate Director for Cultural Resources Stephanie Toothman and National Heritage Area Program Coordinator Martha Raymond.
At the meeting, Director Jarvis identified himself as a “great fan of national heritage areas.” “I’ve seen first-hand the excitement and creativity that NHAs can generate,” he said to the assembled NHA and NPS staff, “not to mention their sheer potential as mechanisms to preserve and educate, to create jobs and revitalize communities. In the preservation business, heritage areas are one of the finest examples of thinking outside the box.”
The importance of the NPS and NHA partnership was one of the director’s key messages. “The partnership between the National Park Service and National Heritage Areas has created a new norm. It is successful, sustainable, and provides demonstrable benefits in communities across the country…it also provides a vital, mutually-beneficial relationship between individual NHAs and their park partners,” said Jarvis.
Essex National Heritage Area and the Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Sites exemplify a vital, mutually-beneficial relationship. Essex NHA funded the construction of the Friendship, a recreated three-masted sailing vessel from the 1790s, which is now a center piece of activity at the Salem Maritime NHS. In addition, Salem Maritime andSaugus Iron Works National Historic Sites have partnered with the Essex National Heritage Area to build a comprehensive youth engagement program. This program offers hands-on educational and enrichment experiences for students aged 5 to 16 and employment experiences for disadvantaged youth aged 14 to 20.
While the director noted key programmatic challenges – mainly lack of program legislation and consistent funding – he also expressed his support and optimism for the future of the NHA program. Most recently, “widespread public support for NHAs and the kind of work NHAs are doing” was voiced at President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative listening sessions. NHAs are in many ways a perfect model for aligning Federal programs to achieve broader objectives. The Second Century Commission report noted NHAs as a flexible, relevant approach for the 21st Century national park idea.
- Heather Scotten with InsideNPS – Headlines
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