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New York State Parks: Funding Heritage Innovation

By Guest Observer May 25, 2015

By Paul M. Bray

"Letchworth State Park Upper Falls 2002" by Andreas F. Borchert. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Letchworth_State_Park_Upper_Falls_2002.jpeg#/media/File:Letchworth_State_Park_Upper_Falls_2002.jpeg

Letchworth State Park Upper Falls 2002 by Andreas F. Borchert. Licensed under Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

New York State has the oldest State Park System in the USA. The System dates back to 1924 and now has 179 state parks. Many of the State Parks are first class like Niagara Falls State Park, Letchworth State Park (known as the Grand Canyon of the East), Thatcher Park near Albany and Saratoga Spa State Park and Jones Beach on Long Island, to name a few. Many are world-class natural sites while some are more known for their golf courses, campsites, swimming pools and beaches.

The State also has vast ecologically rich parks like the 6 million acre Adirondack Park with the only constitutionally protected wild forest land in the nation. The environmental parks like the Adirondack and Catskill Parks are managed by the State’s environmental agency while the more conventional state parks (some of which do have ecologically sensitive resources) are managed by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (ORRHP). OPRHP also has 37 historic sites and its Commissioner is the State Historic Preservation Officer.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas. Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

In 1977 the State Legislature enacted a law directing OPRHP to do a plan for a statewide system of urban cultural parks (UCP) and another law designating the whole area of the 6 historic neighboring communities at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers as the Hudson Mohawk Urban Cultural Park. The UCP name was dropped in the 1990s when regional areas were added to the program and replaced by calling the parks “heritage areas.”

The then OPRHP Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation told a group of state legislators that the proposed UCPs represented the ideal for historic preservation. But concluded that “there is no way” the agency could implement a UCP law. The state legislature, however, saw it as a beneficial partnership that integrated program for conservation, education, recreation and sustainable development and by enacting a law directed the program to move forward. Commissioner of OPRHP, Orin Lehman hired the planning firm of Lane and Frenchman who had at worked on the plan for the Lowell National Historical Park to prepare a statewide plan to implement the UCPs.

Communities that wanted to be UCPs had to prepare feasibility studies to be considered for designation. By 1982 thirteen communities from New York City to Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario were selected for designation as part of the legislation establishing the UCP system.

In 1981, Commissioner Lehman sent the legislature a letter saying, “I am pleased to submit to the Legislature this Plan for the New York Urban Cultural Park System. The plan recommends the creation of an innovative state program, which will help communities to make better use of resources they already have. These resources often lie within declining historic buildings and districts in the heart of our cities. Through the framework of the Urban Cultural Park System, these areas can serve to interpret the heritage of New York State, while becoming regional centers for economic and cultural development through a well-defined and realistic revitalization process.” He also noted that the plan for the development of New York State’s Urban Cultural Park Program received the American Planning Association’s 1981 national “Outstanding Planning Program Award.”
The State Heritage program grew to have 20 state heritage areas and the first 13 state heritage areas benefited from an environmental bond act with $20 million for visitor centers. A mix of state agency programs also helped the state heritage areas support planning and projects.

In September 1991 the National Park Service, the New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission and the National Parks and Conservation Association held a Partnerships in Parks & Preservation Conference in Albany. New York’s urban cultural park/heritage areas were recognized as “partnership parks.”

Mario Cuomo, New York’s Governor and father of Andrew Cuomo who is New York’s current Governor said in his introductory speech that, “The New York Urban Cultural Parks Program has used the partnership of State and local governments and the private sector to preserve some of New York’s most important and impressive downtowns. The State provides technical assistance, grant money, and marketing. The local community provides interpretive staff, capital improvements, and sponsors special events and street festivals. And the private-sector puts the buildings to work as shops, offices, museums and cultural centers.” He went on to say, “We fulfill our own needs for the growth and development of the community, and at the same time fulfill our responsibility to preserve a crucial link between past, present and future generations.”

Cutbacks in Federal program support and state recessions over resent decades ultimately led to a billion dollar backlog in maintenance needs for the traditional state parks. Budgetary issues set the stage for the undoing of the New York heritage areas. Under the administration of Governor Paterson, the small heritage area program was zeroed out although the state provided $100,000 million a year to address the maintenance issues for the traditional state parks.
To this day the State Heritage Area Law remains on the books and OPRHP has reviewed and approved a couple of additional State Heritage Area management plans as it is required to do under State Law. However, no state parks staff or funding has gone directly to State Heritage Areas.

Two years ago when current Governor Andrew Cuomo sponsored a conference on heritage tourism, representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation led the program and said New York State is fortunate to have a State Heritage Program. At the OPRHP table outside the meeting room, when asked for information on the State Heritage Areas, a representative said “we don’t do that program any more”. Technically by law that was not true, but in effect that is how the State Parks Agency has acted and the new era of parks in NYS, state heritage areas, has been abandoned by the very agency that created the award winning plan for state heritage areas.

What is happening in NYS is contrary to an enduring heritage of parks like Olmsted’s Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City, great traditional state parks and urban parks that the State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has protected through the public trust doctrine. It is very regrettable that the highest stewards of NYS parks, the Governor (the son of the former Governor who oversaw the creation of heritage areas) and the State Parks Commissioner, may have found a way to stifle State Heritage Areas that embody the great heritage of their State.

Paul Bray’s email is secsunday at aol.com

Addendum: The financial woes of the New York State Heritage Area program are not unique. The Pennsylvania Heritage Parks (renamed heritage areas) program that drew its inspiration from the New York Urban Cultural Parks also faces hard budgetary times. A direct appropriation for the program was zeroed out in the Governor’s 2009 budget and it has survived on a mixture of legislative largesse and state agency accommodation ever since. Recently elected Governor Wolf has again proposed to eliminate funding for the program. And the campaign to restore funding is in full swing. See an editorial in the commonwealth’s Lackawanna Valley paper calling to Fully Fund Heritage Areas.

Finally, there is the ongoing saga of funding for the National Heritage Area program with its 49 National Heritage Areas, which has been a tug of war between the Department of Interior’s budget recommendation to cut funding for the program in half and Congress’s druthers, which is to put the money back. So far Congress has had the last word, but it takes up a lot of time and effort that could be spent conserving our nation’s heritage.

Brenda Barrett
Editor, Living Landscape Observer

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Can Parks Organizations Continue to Ignore Social Values in Landscape Stewardship?

By Guest Observer May 25, 2015

By Paulette Wallace

Credit: Paulette Wallace

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. Credit: Paulette Wallace

‘Social value’ is not a term that national park organizations in the United States, Canada and New Zealand have tended to use. In fact, when park organizations have ventured into the challenging territory of recognizing the values of people―it has generally been to consider the values of ‘traditional peoples and practices’ of a distant bygone era, or to subsume the social into the consideration of historic significance.

I use social value here, to denote social connections, networks, place attachments—not necessarily related to historic significance, which can include various stakeholders, interest and ethnic groups, and can involve individuals and/or collectives. It is at this point where some might argue that national park organizations have the primary purpose of preserving nature and national identity—therefore, any consideration of social values which might destabilize this mission, or confuse its fixed and constant agenda, has no place within the remit of a national park organization.

My response to this—is that an impression of this kind is exceedingly outdated, and it has been proven to be outmoded by the parks organizations themselves. For example, the US National Park Service is currently establishing an ‘urban agenda’ in time for its 2016 centenary, to address how the organization might better engage with its communities; and Parks Canada have been developing the ‘national urban park’ to embrace a less ‘pristine’ park environment in a populous Toronto area. These recent initiatives underline how park organizations recognize the need to evolve, and they demonstrate a growing interest in establishing closer relationships with the people who engage with their parks. Yet the initiative adopted by park organizations that I wish to discuss in more detail here, is the use of cultural landscapes as a tool for heritage management.

Cultural landscapes are commonly described as being a bridge between nature and culture—they are places where natural and cultural heritage values collide, and for the last 20-30 years, the US National Park Service and Parks Canada have been leading the way in identifying and managing cultural landscapes as part of their cultural resource management programs. While in New Zealand, the Department of Conservation (DOC) holds the prestige of being the manager of the first cultural landscape inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1993.

Credit: Paulette Wallace

Elders of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa tribe with the Author. Credit: Paulette Wallace

Nevertheless, while the embrace of cultural landscapes demonstrates the park organizations’ commitment to keeping up with changing perceptions of natural and cultural heritage, the way that cultural landscapes have been applied are heavily informed by static, entrenched policies of the past. These policies essentially negate the potential of cultural landscapes to promote new approaches to park management that recognize the way that people actively engage with their surroundings.

For instance, the cultural landscapes management policies developed by the US National Park Service focus on how to manage the physical form of an assembly of cultural resources, and they organize cultural landscapes into ‘landscape characteristics’ that recognize mainly visible tangible aspects. Parks Canada follows a similar approach, where its cultural landscapes are made up of ‘character-defining elements’, and while it does also promote the notion of ‘aboriginal cultural landscapes’ as not so determined by the tangible, Parks Canada applies this independently from the ‘character-defining elements’ used in its non-indigenous cultural landscapes program.

Credit: Creative Commons

Tongariro National Park New Zealand

Then in New Zealand, DOC might be described as paying lip service to the social values of Tongariro National Park in its identification of it as a cultural landscape, while failing to recognize these values in the day-to-day management of the park. DOC supported the inscription of Tongariro National Park on the World Heritage list recognizing the associative values of the iwi (tribe) of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and their relationship to Mount Tongariro―which added to the park’s existing inscription for its natural values. Yet a recent Treaty of Waitangi report has found among other things, that the New Zealand government has disregarded the cultural and social values of Māori in carrying out the management of the park, and it recommends that the park be taken out of DOC control and managed in the future by a statutory authority made up of representatives from the government and Māori.

Therefore, as we settle into the twenty-first century and prepare to welcome 100 years of the US National Park Service, there is a need for park organizations to include the public who represent their various park communities, in decision making so that there might be a new generation of joint ambassadors recognizing the social values of people in the landscape stewardship of the future.

For further discussion on how American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand park organizations have been employing cultural landscapes as a tool for heritage management, see:
Wallace, P 2015, ‘Approaching cultural landscapes in post-settler societies: ideas, policies, practices’, submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

Paulette Wallace is the recently named Executive Officer for the Australian Convict Sites, a serial World Heritage property made up of 11 sites around Australia.

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Building Partnerships for Landscape Stewardship

By Guest Observer April 28, 2015

by Sara J. Scherr, Louise E. Buck (orginally appeared on the Project Hercules cultural landscapes blog)

A defining feature of integrated landscape management is long-term multi-stakeholder partnership among different groups of land managers and resource users. Agreeing on and sustaining good landscape stewardship at scale builds on effective partnerships at multiple levels. These ideas are not new, and thousands of landscape initiatives are underway today around the world based on multi-stakeholder partnership models. Methods and tools have been developed to support partners who come from very different perspectives to collaboratively assess their landscapes, negotiate priority objectives, design strategies and interventions, sustain partnership processes and monitor for adaptive management. Policymakers at national and international levels are beginning to recognize the value of landscape partnerships, with their focus on local development, social, environmental and cultural priorities, for shaping high-level strategies to achieve national goals and ensure we live within planetary ecosystem boundaries.

The broad principles of landscape partnerships are fairly well developed and widely agreed (Sayer, et al; Scherr et al, 2014; Kozar et al., 2014). The state of landscape multi-stakeholder partnerships today is that partners are involved primarily because they view partnerships as necessary to realizing their own goals, in the context of multiple legitimate claims on land and resources by different stakeholders. But they are not particularly good at it. More than 80 different communities of practices have arisen to implement integrated landscape management from different entry points and with different philosophies, and there is much ‘reinventing the wheel’. Most trainings and tools are still stakeholder-specific, rather than designed explicitly to engage different stakeholder perspectives. Professional education remains focused on specific disciplines. There are few pathways for professional development as landscape partnership facilitators. Even the most seemingly successful landscape initiatives self-identify major weaknesses in their capacities for collaborative decision-making, monitoring and impact assessment, cross-stakeholder communications and other specific skills.

If the rapid growth in landscape stewardship is to bear the fruit of its potential, we must become more serious about ensuring quality partnerships. It is important to find ways to streamline learning in the core competencies of individuals and institutions to participate in and lead landscape initiatives. Professional education and trainings need to be reoriented to include roles in cross-stakeholder facilitation. To enable the full effectiveness and scaling up of landscape initiatives, new types of organizations operating beyond the landscape must learn to partner with landscape stewardship platforms, such as financial institutions and national-level public agencies. To address this exploding need for improved capacities for ILM, partners in the international Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative are setting up national ‘learning networks’ for landscape leaders in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Brazil and other countries; developing a ‘Landscape Academy’ (without walls) in Africa, and working with universities to strengthen curricula for ILM. National, regional and international cooperation in the development of such landscape partnership programs could greatly enhance landscape stewardship worldwide.

This blog contribution is part of a series on the science and practice of landscape stewardship and will be further elaborated in the course of a book chapter.
 We are looking for real-world cases of good practices that exemplify the principles of landscape stewardship and that serve as a model to inspire implementation in other landscapes. Please share examples or thoughts by adding a comment!

References:
Kozar, R., Buck, L.E., Barrow, E.G., Sunderland, T.C.H., Catacutan, D.E., Planicka, C., Hart, A.K., and L. Willemen (2014). Toward viable landscape governance systems: What works? Washington, DC: EcoAgriculture Partners on behalf of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative.

Sayer, J, T Sunderland, J Ghazoul, J Pfund, D Sheil, E Meijaard, M Venter, AK Boedhihartono, M Day, C Garcia, C van Oosten, and LE Buck (2013). Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses. PNAS 110(21): 8349-8356.

Scherr, S.J., Buck, L.E., Willemen. L. and Milder, J.C. (2014). “Ecoagriculture: Integrated landscape management for people, food and nature.” Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, 3, 1-17.

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Letter from Woodstock: Urban Parks Agenda for Everyone

By Guest Observer April 27, 2015

by Rolf Diamant

This article originally appeared in The George Wright Forum, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 107–111 (2014). It is part of a wide-ranging series of pieces, “Letters from Woodstock,” by the author.

I begin my eighth Letter from Woodstock by expanding upon a previous one (“Stewards of Our Heritage,” March 2013) that referenced preparations for the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service (NPS). In that Letter I suggested “broadening the emphasis beyond the parks themselves—to also highlight the many ways national parks and programs ‘preserve and support’ the well-being and aspirations of communities and people who use them.” I intentionally used the word broadening because an essential challenge facing NPS and almost all park and protected area systems is how to deliver high-quality public services and consistent stewardship but also be adaptable enough to remain relevant and responsive to the urgent needs and concerns of contemporary life. There is also a subtle shift in perspective: broadening a conversation that is often centered on what is best for the future of parks to a conversation that is expanded to include what is best for a larger set of social and environmental objectives and ways that parks, in collaboration with other institutions, can help achieve those objectives.

Former NPS Director Roger Kennedy spoke of the “usefulness” of national parks in the context, for example, of how they played an outsized role in emergency conservation, employment, and recreation projects during the Great Depression. The national park system also represented a popular national institution in a time of profound social demoralization. I would suggest that NPS continues to play a unifying role today in a country that seems pulled so in many different directions. The 2009 National Parks Second Century Commission Report described the national parks “as community builders, creating an enlightened society committed to a sustainable world.” The current National Park System Advisory Board, building on the National Parks Second Century Commission, articulates this higher purpose for NPS: “actively working to advance national goals for education, the economy, and public health, as well as conservation.”

I don’t take for granted (though I certainly won’t be around to see) that there will be a national park system to celebrate a third century in 2116. Though I am not inclined to either pessimistic or dystopian thinking, I have come to believe that nothing can be taken for granted; good work that has been done can also be undone. (As I write this, the Australian government, only a few months before the World Parks Congress convenes in Sydney, is repealing landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.). NPS, like many other public institutions, will continue to be subject to a variety of stress tests, evaluating things like resiliency and adaptability, purpose and meaningfulness, ecosystem and cultural services, collaborative relationships, and their overall relevancy to what people care deeply about. That is why the work being undertaken by the advisory board and by a number of national parks and partner organizations to broaden the usefulness and relevancy of the national park system is so vitally important. Here are a few examples.

NPS, New York City, and a consortium of research institutions are using the Jamaica Bay unit of Gateway National Recreation Area as a living laboratory for testing new approaches for building climate change resiliency in urban coastal ecosystems. This is not the only place in the national park system where there is new thinking and research about climate resiliency, but given the devastation that Hurricane Sandy inflicted on the densely populated barrier islands of the metropolitan New York/New Jersey area, there is a particular sense of urgency to the Jamaica Bay project.

I have described in a previous Letter how the partnership between the Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is breaking new ground on integrating sustainable city living, historic preservation, and park design at the Presidio of San Francis- co, including the first national historic landmark property to be certified by the US Green Building Council as “LEED for Neighborhood Development” for “smart growth, urbanism and green building.” This ambitious re-purposing of vast military holdings for public benefit and use is only part of the story. Concurrent with this great transformation, an extraordinary bond is being forged between these national parks and people and communities of the San Francisco Bay Area, drawing the attention of park and protected area managers from all over the world.

On a very different scale, there is the interesting example of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park’s Youth Ambassador Program (YAP!), a partnership project between NPS and Third Eye Youth Empowerment, a nonprofit dedicated to “building community and national pride through a series of learning experiences, skill development and real proj- ects … to improve the community, centered on the principles of economic and social equality.” The mission of the Youth Ambassadors is to “unite young people, utilizing Hip Hop, a common cultural art form and voice for the people, to engage and empower youth to positively change themselves and their community.” Working with New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Youth Ambassadors are producing a series of music videos, including their powerful hip-hop video “54,” about the 54th Massachusetts, the African-American regiment recruited by Frederick Douglass during the Civil War. The young performers infuse the narrative with their own distinct voice and message using an evocative, if unorthodox, interpretive format, making this compelling “Civil War to Civil Rights” story accessible to their friends and peers.

NPS is embarking on a landmark systemwide effort to develop what is being called an “urban agenda.” This urban agenda, is in part, an outgrowth of the 2012 conference titled “Greater & Greener: Re-Imagining Parks for 21st Century Cities,” organized by the City Parks Alliance in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. An “affinity caucus” of NPS conference attendees, mostly from urban national parks, joined NPS Director Jon Jarvis to initiate an ongoing participatory process for identifying policy changes that will enable NPS urban parks and programs to “step into their power” with the intent of becoming a larger, more relevant part of urban life in America.

The scale of current NPS urban activities may come as a surprise to many people. Beginning in the early 1930s, Congress has gradually expanded the urban footprint of the National Park Service, establishing new units of the national park system in 40 of the country’s 50 most-populated metropolitan areas. Today, these national parks make up nearly one-third of the entire park system and draw approximately 40% of all national park users. The NPS National Capital Region and its 34 national parks in and around Washington, DC, for example, serve an urban population of more than five million people. Congress has also authorized more than two dozen different NPS programs providing urban communities with a wide range of services, including historic preservation tax credits, recreation grants, and conservation technical assistance.

Throughout this process of developing the urban agenda, the NPS Stewardship Institute (formerly the Conservation Study Institute) has been coordinating and documenting a series of webinar conversations with “communities of practice”—self-selecting groups of urban park practitioners—focusing on specific subjects such as urban innovation, economic revitalization, connecting youth to nature, and urban parks as portals for diversity. Attention tended to focus on what I might call “nuts and bolts” problems: how to streamline the use of legal authorities for leasing and cooperative agreements and how to align NPS funding and program priorities to concentrate available resources for greater impact. Lessons learned are shared for a variety of relatively new NPS-sponsored, community-based programs dealing with public transportation, safe routes to school, urban gardening, and partnerships with health providers. There is also an imperative to build a stronger “culture of collaboration” in which NPS operates as one partner among many. Underpinning all these discussions is the implicit vision of NPS as a “catalyst for civic renewal” consistent with the overall direction of Second Century Commission, the NPS director’s Call to Action, and the work of the National Park System Advisory Board.

The urban agenda is still very much a work in progress that will have to surmount competing interests and priorities, political jockeying, and bureaucratic inertia. There is also a danger that 2016 NPS centennial activities and a looming national election may, in effect, swamp it. There may also be internal resistance. Some may choose to interpret relevancy primarily in terms of making a fixed set of traditional park experiences more widely accessible rather than exploring ways to expand those experiences in order to engage a broader cross-section of the public (think “54”). Nearly 40 years ago, while I was working on the startup of the Golden Gate national parks, I clipped a Sierra Club Bulletin commentary by Jonathan Ela hammering NPS and other administraton officials for reversing previous support for urban national parks and testifying against making Cuyahoga Valley, located between the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, part of the national park system.

Drawing by Steven M. Johnson.

Drawing by Steven M. Johnson.

Contending that NPS personnel appeared at that time more comfortable with park users that looked and acted just like they did, Ela illustrated his article with this drawing by Steven M. Johnson (reproduced with permission of the artist).

Decades later, Bill Gwaltney (formerly with NPS—now with the Smithsonian), while working on diversifying the NPS workforce, would remind his colleagues that “people feel better [using parks] when they think their reality, their experiences, their culture, their expectations are on some levels mirrored in their national parks.”

National parks may also come to over-rely on their social media and marketing as substitutes for personal engagement and the patient hard work and risk-taking that builds trust and meaningful long-term relationships between parks and communities. Protecting parklands within clearly defined boundaries has always been a core function of the agency and it will no doubt be a challenge getting people to see an investment in “civic renewal,” particularly as budgets contract, as a central strategy for the long-term survival of national parks.

Even under the most favorable circumstances, moving an urban agenda forward will be difficult. There is a recurring concern that any reform, however desirable, might set a precedent that unintentionally provides an opening for parties with interests inimical to na- tional parks to do harm. Such concerns deserve careful consideration, and risk-taking must be judicious, yet the alternative of always playing it safe and resisting change has significant downstream dangers.

Let us hope that the newly established Urban Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board may be able to advance an NPS urban agenda, and, in the face of these obstacles, help sustain its momentum. Those working on the urban agenda understand that a system of national parks and programs that is perceived as being accessible, engaged, and resourceful will be a system that is ultimately valued, supported, and strengthened over time. This is what an earlier Advisory Board report, Rethinking National Parks in the 21st Century, envisioned when it advocated that parks reach “broader segments of society in ways that make them more meaningful in the life of the nation” and help build “a citizenry that is committed to conserving its heritage and its home on earth.”
A 21st-century agenda for urban national parks is, in many fundamental ways, an agenda for all national parks.

Rolf Diamant retired from the National Park Service in 2011, following a 37-year career with the agency. During that time, he developed new partnership models for national parks and conservation strategies for wild and scenic rivers and national heritage areas. He was the founding superintendent of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, in Woodstock, Vermont, as well as superintendent of Fairsted, the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Vermont 

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The Future of Administrative Histories

By Guest Observer April 27, 2015

By Angela Sirna

The National Council on Public History held its annual meeting last week in Nashville, Tennessee, bringing together over 800 members dedicated to encouraging collaboration among historians and their public. I participated in one particular working group that focused on National Park Service administrative histories. The NPS uses these documents to understand the agency’s involvement in a particular park, office, region, or program, and help with future management decisions.

In the months leading to the conference, members of the working group contributed thoughts to a Google Doc about how the NPS might revisit its guidelines, last written in 2004, and think “beyond the administrative history.” In other words, how can we make these documents more usable? I was happy with the group’s diversity and impressed by the participants’ credentials. Everyone present had extensive experience with writing, reviewing, or using these documents. There were consultants, park historians, regional historians, and scholars. Okay, I guess I still count as a graduate student, but I’m trying to move beyond that label. We discussed three questions and I’ll share some of our thoughts that stick out in my memory (I didn’t take notes).

  • What makes an administrative history useful?

Administrative histories tell the park’s story; every manager should know hers/his park’s story. An administrative history should show where the “land mines” are buried, where the past and potential controversies lie. These histories should help with compliance, but also tie to larger historical narratives. I also argued that an administrative history, when done right, can be a road map for civic engagement, especially when it shows how the NPS marginalized or excluded certain groups.

  • What do we do with administrative histories when they are done?

A common and legitimate complaint is that once completed, many administrative histories are doomed to languish on a shelf or in a box. We discussed (as many have over the years) of having a searchable database for this literature group with special tags. We also considered several different “add ons” that might be included in contracts or funded later through ONPS CR funds marked for “Transfer of Knowledge.” These additions can include workshops and training for personnel about the document, a place for admin history authors at the table for concurrent or future park planning initiatives, videos for the web, or other interpretive content. We didn’t get into who owns the research, but I think it is important to talk up front about the possibility of publishing in academic journals or with university or trade presses. These all require a good deal of foresight. I also encouraged the group to think beyond the traditional monograph as the final product for these studies. Can we possibly do digital projects (such as this one on the Blue Ridge Parkway), videos, or something else instead?

  • What are the future directions with administrative histories?

Looking at the agenda, my memory of this part of the conversation is less clear. However, my major point from reading the discussions on the Google Doc is that park managers need to recognize that administrative histories are a process, not a one-and-done product. There are things parks can do while they wait for an administrative history project to be funded. I think this is where graduate students can be a big help. They can examine bits and pieces of a park’s history through research papers, theses, and dissertations. However, for this to be successful for both the agency and the student, the NPS needs to provide some measure of support and treat these studies as legitimate agency literature and scholarship. I’ve noticed an attitude within the agency that if they did not spend a bunch of money on a project, it somehow doesn’t “count.” That is a disservice to the student, the park resources, and the public the agency serves. A good partnership can mean that a contractor will have less ground to cover if they can build upon accumulating literature.

Moving forward from our meeting in Nashville, the NPS will hopefully incorporate our ideas into its guidelines for administrative histories, which it is currently reviewing and revising. Group facilitators will also summarize our discussions in a History at Work post. Finally, an upcoming edition of The Public Historian will focus on NPS biographies.

Are administrative histories important to your work? How do you use them? How might the NPS make them better?

Ed note: Interested in reviewing some NPS administrative histories? npshistory.com has a good list here.

Angela Sirna received her PhD in Public History from Middle Tennessee State University in April 2015 and is currently working on an administrative history of Stones River National Battlefield. Her dissertation traced the development of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park from the New Deal through the Great Society. Angela also served as the Public Historian in Residence at Catoctin Mountain Park in 2013-2014 and completed a Special Resource Study on human conservation programs at the park throughout the twentieth century.

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The Next Generation: Making the Link between Historic Preservation and Sustainability

By Guest Observer March 27, 2015

by Katie Rispoli

Credit: Preservation Action

Katie Rispoli, Founder of the nonpfoit We Are the Next and 2015 Preservation Advocacy Scholar

As a graduate student in Heritage Conservation at the University of Southern California, I was fortunate to be selected as a Preservation Advocacy Scholar and attend the Preservation Action Conference in Washington, D.C. this March. My visit to DC allowed me to understand the greater dynamic of historic preservation funding and policy, and to make connections with my local representatives. Through these connections I was able to share my work at We Are the Next, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2014 and continue to operate full-time. The organization serves Los Angeles County.

We Are the Next embodies what I believe to be the future of historic preservation. The organization was founded to broaden the understanding that our historic built environment is one of many non-renewable resources. Our goal is to educate youth about the environmental benefit that lies in historic resources and build an identity with those resources so that when they mature and become developers, city employees, real estate agents, and even homeowners, they consider reusing the resources that confront them as opposed to jumping to demolition as a first and only option.

I have seen that we are too often ‘preaching to the choir’ in preservation. Our advocacy groups hold mixers for preservation circles and even their workshops can be intimidating to the layman. Preservation in my region has not been relatable for our youngest residents, and that is what I want to change.

In reality, the foundation for our work has already been laid. Public schools, private schools, and households teach children about recycling and environmental conservation. And just as there is environmental conservation, we know there is heritage conservation. In my experience, children who have been taught about recycling are able to understand that just as you can recycle bottles, you can recycle buildings through adaptive reuse – and that is how we are hoping to change the future of historic preservation.

The notion that historic resources contain embodied energy is irrefutable, but it can also be difficult to understand and complicated to explain to children. As a consequence, one of the most convincing arguments for conserving our heritage has been left out of the discussion with our youngest residents. Bringing the environmental benefit, a key concern in today’s (and tomorrow’s) society, to the forefront of cultural heritage with youth can regenerate the conversation on a grander scale.

‘The Next’ aims to work with kids across Los Angeles County to teach them about the cultural and environmental benefits that lie within their own neighborhoods. We are preparing to conduct workshops in the form of after-school, weekend, and summer programming in partnership with other community and historic preservation partners.

Credit: Katie Rispoli

The first Taco Bell in Downey, CA as it looked in the 1970s. We Are the Next is coordinating the relocation and reuse of the building. Credit: Katie Rispoli

In an effort to ensure the children we work with do not forget our message, we are also working with the cities they live in to continue the legacy of their historic resources. All across Los Angeles County, cities with high-minority and low-income populations have been losing their heritage. These cities, which have a high proportion of vernacular architecture, have been losing neighborhoods and main streets to big-box shopping centers and spreading gentrification. These cities are lower in population than some of their neighbors and operate on much smaller budgets. Very few of these cities are Certified Local Governments or have any landmarks in their jurisdiction at the local, state, or national levels. Because these cities operate with less financial resources, the concept of developing a Historic Preservation or Adaptive Reuse Ordinance and maintaining a planning staff with preservation credentials seems daunting.

 

Credit: Katie Rispoli

The first ever Taco Bell in Downey, CA awaiting relocation and adaptively reuse a We Are  the Next project. Credit: Katie Rispoli

We Are the Next is operating as a consultant in order to provide these cities with a feasible resource. We are working with cities to help them find affordability in historic preservation performing construction management, forming community development and strategic plans, writing ordinances, and providing historic preservation planning services so that these smaller cities can afford to bring both historic landmarks and the corresponding environmental sustainability to their residents.

In Washington, I was able to discuss these ideas with preservation advocates and professionals from across the country with resounding support. While in DC, I visited Capitol Hill where I was able to secure a meeting with a staffer to one of the Congressman who represents a significant portion of Los Angeles County, and was given high support for our organization’s activities. Though the Congressman whose office I visited has not expressed consistent support for historic preservation, he is an advocate of environmental health and sustainability. I was able to share with his adviser the connection between these two interests as well as demonstrations of some of our recent projects. She was very interested and appeared convinced that historic preservation should be an interest of the Congressman since it is parallel to environmental health.

Our focus on youth, relatability, and environment has brought abundant support for the organization. Since we were founded nine months ago I have sought out potential partners and we have been approached to develop additional alliances with like-minded groups across the county. We are beginning programming with local schools and educational organizations, and have been contracted by cities for construction management services. Though we are still very small, this organization has been able to see some success in its first year and I am honored to say it is showing promise moving forward.

We Are the Next – “And So Are You.”

Learn more – www.wearethenext.org | facebook.com | @next_nonprofit
Katie Rispoli is a current graduate student in the Master of Heritage Conservation program in the University of Southern California School of Architecture, and will graduate in May of 2015. She is passionate about environmental health, cultural heritage, and youth education through preservation. Katie works in Preservation in South Los Angeles County as the Director of We Are the Next, a nonprofit organization. When not working or in school, Katie enjoys splitting her time between exploring both the city and the great outdoors.

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Coal Seam Gas and the Hidden Destruction of Public Lands and Resources

By Guest Observer January 29, 2015

by Jane Lennon

In eastern Australia where coal seam gas [CSG] has become a new industry in the last 10 years, the land is the battleground: grazing country, cropping country, state forest, water catchment areas, rural residential blocks and even urban areas. Gas miners through development approvals have the rights to the mineral resources underground, all government- owned in this country, and prevail over the rights of landowners on the surface.

Credit: Jane Lennon

Darling Downs south east of Dalby –rich black soils underlain by coal seam gas. Photo: June 2014 by J. Lennon]

As conventional oil and gas fields decline and prices rise, and the nuclear renaissance has been dimmed by the Fukushima meltdown, coal seam gas is booming along with oil shales, and tar sands. Commercial CSG was first produced in Australia in 1996 when degassing the Moura coal mine after the explosion that killed 11 men in 1994.

CSG, which is mainly methane like natural gas, is trapped in tiny cracks and while colourless and odourless, is toxic and explosive. In high quality CSG deposits the cleats or fractures in the coal bed are permeable enough to allow gas and water to flow freely through them and the fracking process to release gas is not required. Seams producing CSG economically are from 200 to 1000 m below the surface. It flows at lower pressure than conventional gas and extraction relies on drilling thousands of small diameter, slower producing wells in close proximity, about 750 m apart. After the hole is drilled to the required depth, steel casing is installed and cement pumped to fill the space between the casing and the well bore. When the cement hardens it provides a barrier between the extraction bore and the surrounding earth beds. Each well must be connected via a twin pipeline network, one carrying gas to a processing facility for distribution, and the other carrying ‘produced’ water, which is saline to a reverse osmosis treatment facility

Access roads link the wells in straight-line corridors creating a pin-cushion effect on the landscape and carving huge swathes through forests. About 3,200 active CSG wells have been drilled in Queensland since 2002 mainly for the domestic market as CSG now supplies about 90% of the State’s gas, but the industry will be turbo-charged by the LNG [liquid natural gas] boom with 20,000 wells already approved and another 14,500 applied for. These wells are all needed to feed by pipeline the three massive LNG plants now being constructed hundreds of kilometres away from the gas fields on Curtis Island in the port of Gladstone, on the edge of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Credit: Jane Lennon

Ruby -153 well, Braemar State Forest [June 2014, J. Lennon]

In 2010-11, Australia sold approximately 20 million tonnes of LNG worth $10 billion, making it our seventh largest export. It is expected to quadruple by 2017 and Australia will be the world’s leading supplier. Most of Australia’s gas is exported along with most of the earnings as 83% of the resources industry is foreign-owned,. The big four CSG producers are: British Gas’s QCLNG, Shell/Petrochina’s Arrow LNG, Santos’s Gladstone LNG, and Origin’s APLNG (Manning, 2013:21-7).

The CSG-LNG projects will deliver a huge windfall in taxes and royalties to the Queensland and Commonwealth governments. Queensland royalties are forecast to rise from $120 million in 2014-15 to $985 million in 2031-32. For cash strapped governments it’s a revenue boon, but the downside is doubling domestic prices to reach ‘export parity’, fly-in-fly-out or drive- in-drive-out workforce, and a two speed economy which is socially divisive. Companies with a highly paid workforce, paying tax and undertaking construction risks are sensitive to regulatory burdens and all governments facilitate their projects and do not enforce detailed prescriptions. Despite all the speed and volume of gas projects, there is a shortage of gas as difficulties getting access to farmers’ land slows down drilling and costs are high in comparison with Qatar, Mozambique, Canada and the USA (Manning, 2013:28-31).

As Australia’s latest resources boom gathered pace at the end of the last decade, ‘farm versus mine’ conflicts were erupting. Farmers and rural residents were successful in getting the attention of urban dwellers and these conflicts were reported regularly in rural papers like The Land in NSW and made daily reading in major newspapers from 2009.

Environmentalists, the Greens and farmers formed an alliance of direct action –the Lock the Gate movement. They engaged in broad civil disobedience such as protests outside company offices and road blockades at well sites in 2011, and thousands of property owners put their distinctive yellow triangular signs on their gates and vehicles thus ensuring high visibility for the protest message. Investigations for television documentaries like ‘Four Corners’ and ’60 Minutes’ as well as radio shows like ‘Landline’ broadcast the issues nationally. US documentaries Gasland and Split Estate were widely viewed.

However, these were drought times still after a long dry decade and not all farmers objected. They were grateful for the annual rent for wells drilled on their land. In 2010 new Queensland legislation ensured farmers were compensated for any impact on their water bores and in 2011 strategic cropping lands were protected by new legislation. However, the three major CSG-LNG projects approved in 2010 proceeded despite the Coordinator General highlighting weaknesses in the environmental impact statements including failure to adequately address cumulative impacts, greenhouse gas emissions, and impacts on underground water. He pointed out that poor water management had the potential to result in widespread, irreversible harm with long term problems for soil, waters, vegetation, ecosystems, crops and future land use (Courier Mail, 8 September 2010). He resigned soon after. Paul Cleary in his 2012 book Mine-Field noted (p.78) that senior public servants had ‘been put in humanly impossible situations in working on CSG approvals.’

With a unicameral parliament in Queensland and no Greens MPs, review of major developments is almost impossible along with the rush for royalties before aus_1regulation. The Newman government established a Gasfields Commission in 2012 but it was compromised from its first appointment. The Department of Environment and Resource management in its 2011 compliance report noted that no unscheduled audits of fracking had taken place that year due to occupational health and safety difficulties but these audits are the cornerstone of effective regulation. Poaching of scientists and skilled people to the better paid CSG industry also meant that government lacked the skills and people to effectively assess and regulate the industry (Manning, 2013:127-131). Meanwhile government staff in rural areas are trying to protect the people’s forests, public land originally reserved on the Darling Downs as State Forests for timber production [outlined in red at above].

Arrow Energy has wells in and adjacent to Braemar SF which lies roughly between the Dalby-Kogan and Dalby-Tara roads, to the west of the rich farmlands along the Condamine River.

The photographs below show the extent of development of wells, pipelines, access roads, reverse osmosis water treatment plants, brine ponds and gas processing plants from 2005 (left ) to 2012 (right).

aus_2There are separate ponds of 840ML and 960ML respectively for produced and treated water. The dots are pads for the wells ‘70m by 70m with a 15 year life expectancy depending on the depth of the coal strata’. A reverse osmosis facility [top right corner of photos] treats the water and pumps it to a farm experimenting with central pivot irrigated corn and cotton with salts ranging from 25 to 7000 ppm and the salts treated to brine might be used as fertilizer (Arrow Energy, pers. comm., 21 June 2014). There is a redesign of the well distribution, which was five wells on a dice pattern, now with 12 wells on a single pad three kilometres apart along the Condamine flats and the pad can be in paddock corner rather than in the centre.
These production wells target the confined Walloon Coal Measures below the Condamine alluvium. Some wells may be as shallow as 150m. The Condamine alluvium is already depleted and highly regulated with farmers only allowed to take 46 GL/per year from the aquifer for irrigation, which is half the historical level. Unfortunately about 40% of Arrow’s gas lies in the Horrane Trough right beneath the floodplain which on any assessment is strategic cropping land producing $5000 per hectare annually for cotton (Manning, 2013:141- 4). Farmers fear this land could be contaminated if production water gets into the aquifer.

New road Braemar State Forest [June 2014, J Lennon]

New road Braemar State Forest [June 2014, J Lennon]

The South East Queensland Regional Forest Agreement in the late 1990s meant the end of native forest logging which was to be phased out by 2025 and 1.2 million ha locked up. The Newman government in 2010 opened all State Forests for logging and increased mining tenements, although 400, 000 ha was transferred to National Parks without tenements and Native Title ILUAs (Indigenous Land Use Agreements). Braemar State Forest (SF4) was established in the 1930s for western hardwood extraction and contained forestry barracks and an arboretum. Currently it yields royalties of $200 ha for 15 years of localised cutting then it will cease. Forest Products Branch currently receives more revenue from selling rocks from their quarries than from trees (T. Beetson, pers. comm., 21 June 2014).

In the forest, gazetted roads were cleared by the Shire and Arrow Energy pays for this. They have 3 months for salvage of timber but Forest Products staff need 12 months to cover the rate and extent of clearing so the compensation clause of $2000 ha comes into action. They have to chip all the cleared vegetation from the well pad sites as a carbon offset. Pipes have been laid at shallow depth despite permit conditions and this makes forest harvesting difficult. The high pressure lines are steel but the feeders are polypipe. Habitat fragmentation (above photographs) is the result of all this construction and clearing, despite the EIS agreeing to ‘retention of corridors’ and permits granted to clear 2-3% of the tree cover. There are three huge parallel pipelines cutting through the forest taking gas for export to Gladstone and shipping terminals.

aus_4
Condamine State Forest (SF181) is severely impacted by CSG. Cypress trees take 200 years to reach commercial size and apiary sites are worth only $150 annually in rental but miners do not want log landings on cleared areas for pipelines and are suspicious of any visitors to their sites in forest areas.
Monitoring of conditions is also problematic with multiple agencies having different levels of authority. The Department of Mines monitors mine safety; the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection sets out the environmental controls following consideration of company submitted EIS reports and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry monitors clearing and collects royalties for cleared vegetation. Arrow Energy staff said they monitor conditions (for example, fugitive emissions) and employ contractors to monitor against the conditions of the permits to operate.

 

Extent of CSG development in Condamine State Forest, 2014

Extent of CSG development in Condamine State Forest, 2014

Braemar power stations nos 1 and 2 (photograph below) operate adjacent to the Kogan Creek Power Station and its Queensland to NSW high voltage transmission interconnector and the Power Link substation forming a big hub in the forest. They use CSG fired turbines and production water, not steam, and so are almost invisible in the forest landscape until one arrives at their fenced off compounds.

These highly efficient power stations supply electricity to Brisbane but the explosion in CSG wells is to provide gas for export to foreign markets. Governments receive large royalties now and a few towns are buzzing with spinoff commercial activity as they supply the network of private contractor villages that have sprung up across the gas fields. While some farmers are happy to receive annual rentals for wells on their properties most are concerned about long term impacts on their underground water and the rehabilitation costs [25, 000 wells of varying depth] for their land surface. The Darling Downs as part of Australia’s prime food bowl should be protected from resource extraction industries and gas mining companies should be subject to the same regulatory regime as farmers for water use.

The gas industry has been given rushed approval to transform some of Australia’s most productive agricultural country on a previously unimaginable, region-wide scale, without a rigorous scientific understanding of the impacts and without a community or social license to operate. In another 25 years who will pay to clean up the mess across the landscape and underground and will there be water for farming?

Jane Lennon is a founding member of Australia ICOMOS, a former ICCROM council member and Australian Heritage Councillor. She is an expert member of the ICOMOS/IFLA Cultural Landscape Committee She holds a PhD from Deakin University and she is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Melbourne.

References:
ABC North Coast [http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2013/09/25/3855889.htm] Institute of Foresters, Qld, Field trip, Dalby, 21-22 June 2014
Cleary, Paul, 2012. Mine-field: The dark side of Australia’s resources rush, Black Inc, Melbourne
Courier Mail, Brisbane, 8 September 2010
Manning Paddy, 2013. What the Frack?: everything you need to know about coal seam gas, NewSouth QuickEs book, Sydney

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Recognize Adirondack Park as National Heritage

By Guest Observer January 29, 2015

By Paul Bray

I’ve been to the Rockies, and clearly, a visitor can’t help but be awestruck by their height and views. Yet the Adirondack Park is where I prefer to go.

Adirondack Museum at Blue Mt. Lake

Adirondack Museum at Blue Mt. Lake. Photo by Paul Bray.

I’ve had decades of pleasurable visits to the Adirondack Park to hike, climb, ski, canoe, enjoy the scenery and go to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Whether my visit is to recreate or debate park management policy, I’m drawn to the region’s history and ongoing politics as well as its lakes, ponds and rivers.

What brings this to mind is the emerging awareness and appreciation of the Adirondacks’ heritage — something Congress ought to take note of, too.

Last year, author Marty Podskoch offered an idea for experiencing the park in his book, “Adirondack 102 Club, Your Passport to the North Country.” His idea was for a club to encourage travelers to visit all the towns and villages of the Adirondack Park.

“Since 2001, I traveled to all of the 102 towns and villages in the Adirondacks gathering stories for my five books on the Adirondack fire towers, the Civilian Conservation Corps camps, and Adirondack lore,” he writes. “In my travels people have taken me in for the night and shared their home, food and stories. I have met so many wonderful people and seen so many interesting places that I want to share my experience.”

Like the Adirondack 46ers — the designation for those who have climbed all 46 Adirondack peaks 4,000 feet or higher — there are now the “102ers” or “Vagabond” members who have visited all 102 Adirondack towns and villages. “Vagabonds” is the term Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs used to describe themselves on their automobile camping trips in the Adirondacks and other sojourns throughout the nation.

I knew the Adirondack activist, Barbara McMartin, who wrote 25 guide books and histories of the Adirondacks before she died in 2005. She was engaged with and passionate about the policies of managing the many issues associated with a park with constitutionally protected areas, sustainable forestry, and civic recreational areas like Lake George.

Baxter Mountain n the Adirondacks. Credit: Adirondack Counci

Baxter Mountain in the Adirondacks. Credit: Adirondack Council

One of her last books was “Perspectives on the Adirondacks: A Thirty-year Struggle by People Protecting Their Treasure.” I was active in the Sierra Club during those 30 years, and worked with her on Adirondack Park Centennial committee. We coined the name “A Park of Nature and People”.

Philip Terrie, who also has written a number of books about the Adirondacks and is a passionate supporter of the forest preserve, declared the park is a “cultural landscape,” an acknowledgment of the human and cultural heritage of the park, which I value along with the wild forest.

Now that New York state has five National Heritage Areas — including the cultural landscapes of the Hudson River with its renowned 19th-century art school; the Erie Canal that opened the way to the West; and Niagara Falls, one of the nation’s best known natural icons — it is time for Congress to designate the Adirondack Park a National Heritage Area, too. This designation does not call for land use regulation or other restrictions. It is a means to foster recognition of heritage and education of this great American landscape

This article originally appeared in the Albany Times-Union

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Cultural Landscapes Conference at the University of Massachusetts

By Guest Observer December 30, 2014

This timely conference, Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values: Embracing Change in the Management of Place, will emphasize the need to acknowledge and engage change in the successful interpretation, conservation, and management of landscapes; the often unproductive dichotomy of “natural” and “cultural” resources; the factors of social and economic inequality inherent in the designation and management of living landscapes; and other critical issues in heritage studies today that are raised and provoked by cultural landscape research and conservation.

Plenary speakers include Graham Fairclough, Newcastle University and Jane Lennon Deakin University.

Abstracts are due January 15, 2015. The Conference is May 13-15, 2015.

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The Year’s Top Stories

By Guest Observer December 23, 2014
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New York State’s Recreational Areas Deserve Spotlight

By Guest Observer November 30, 2014

By Paul M. Bray

Photograph Courtesy of the National Park Service

View of Central Park in New York City. Photo Courtesy: National Park Service

As a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, I’ve met park managers and activists from all parts of the world. I have seen how America’s National Parks are well known internationally. The National Park System is called the best idea America has ever had. The National Park Service is renowned for its skill in managing parks from Yellowstone, known as the mecca of parks, to portions of Lowell, Mass., an old industrial city.

But New York state has not gotten such national and international attention for its great parks and protected areas.

Consider the state’s protection of wilderness areas.

One of the nation’s most important environmental laws turned 50 this year: the Wilderness Act. New York played an important role in its establishment. The state passed a constitutional amendment in 1894 declaring the public land within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks shall remain “forever wild.” This is the only constitutionally protected wild land in the nation, a large portion of which is being managed as “wilderness.”

Howard Zahniser, former leader of the Wilderness Society, was instrumental in the creation of the Wilderness Law. Zahniser had a cabin in the Adirondack Park near a cabin owned by Paul Schaefer, a leading advocate for protecting New York’s forest preserve. Zahniser was impressed by the forest preserve and spent many hours talking with Schaefer about New York’s experience with the forest preserve.

Like our National Park System, New York has a wide range of top notch parks and protected areas. Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City are renowned as urban pastoral gardens. Olmsted also selected the location of Albany’s Washington Park. Regrettably, Albany’s city fathers rejected Olmsted’s insistence on designing a coordinated system of parks and parkways, and he moved on to Buffalo, where he went on to do just that, the first such system of its kind in the country.

In 1892, the state established the vast Adirondack Park, which is now 6 million acres in size. It was followed in the early 20th century by the Catskill Park. Both parks are a matrix of wild forest lands and inhabited areas.
Robert Moses led New York to establish the nation’s first state park system, now composed of 179 state parks and 37 historic sites. The system includes Niagara Falls, the oldest state park in the nation, Letchworth State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the East, and the vast Jones Beach on Long Island.

In 1982 the state enacted the nation’s first Urban Cultural Park System. It is now called the Heritage Area System. It has 20 State Heritage Areas ranging from Harbor Park in New York City, portions of cities like Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, villages like Seneca Falls and Sackets Harbor, and regional heritage areas like the Concord Grape Heritage Area.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas. Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Heritage Areas have been called “partnership” parks because successful management depends upon partnership between the state, localities and the private sector. Sadly, they have been limping along because the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has not wanted to uphold its share of the partnership. Notwithstanding the troubles some of the Heritage Areas have had with the state, the first of the 49 National Heritage Areas which followed in New York’s footsteps is having a 30th anniversary this year. New York again led the nation.

Our state also has established greenways like the Hudson River Greenway, stretching from New York City to Saratoga and Washington counties, and preserves like the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, which was recently designated by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark, and the Long Island Central Pine Barrens.

We should be proud of our parks and protected areas in New York state. Many of us enjoy, are inspired by and make good recreational use of one or more of our parks and protected areas, but I don’t think we have proudly proclaimed how world class our parks, protected and heritage areas are. We need to show our pride if we are to be known as a desirable place to live.

This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on October 12, 2014

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Apply Now for Advocacy Scholars – Deadline Oct. 31

By Guest Observer August 27, 2014
Members of the the North Carolina Delegation from University of North Carolina Greensboro during Advocacy Week 2013, pictured here with Representative Richard Hudson. Photo: Preservation Action

Members of the the North Carolina Delegation from University of North Carolina Greensboro during Advocacy Week 2013, pictured here with Representative Richard Hudson. Photo: Preservation Action

Deadline October 31!

Historic Preservation Advocacy Week is an annual event bringing over 250 preservationists to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to advocate for stronger federal preservation policies. This year, the Preservation Action Foundation will be offering a limited number of scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students to attend the important event. The award includes complimentary registration to Advocacy Week in March 2015 and a $500 stipend.

The Advocacy Scholars Program is open to undergraduate and graduate students in Public Policy, Historic Preservation, History, Law, Planning, Architecture or related programs. Submissions must be emailed education@preservationaction.org by October 31st. Note Advocacy Scholar in subject line.

Selected Advocacy Scholars will be notified by January 5, 2015.

Submissions must include:

1. A cover letter stating your interest, any previous legislative or advocacy experience and how participating in the program will contribute to your academic and professional goals.

2. A 1,500 word essay on either of the following topics:

National Heritage Areas@30: In 2014 Congress considered multiple requests to designate new National Heritage Areas, even though the program faces continued financial and legislative challenges. Why is this large landscape program so compelling and what is its future? Give us your thoughts.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established policy to protect our nation’s cultural resources. Preservation Action was founded by advocates to make historic preservation policies a national legislative priority. How do people who value preservation continue to take a stand? How to engage the next generation of historic preservationists and advocates?

3. Proof of academic enrollment.

For more information, www. preservationaction.org/scholars or contact Trisha Logan, Vice Chair of Development for Preservation Action at education@preservationaction.org.

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Cultural Landscape Foundation Features Duncan Hilchey Interview

By Guest Observer August 26, 2014
Credit: Duncan Hilchey

Grape Belt Heritage Area, New York State. Credit: Duncan Hilchey

The Cultural Landscape Foundation recently featured an interview with Duncan Hilchey. It highlights his work on agricultural landscapes, including the wild blueberry barrens of Maine and the cranberry bog region of southeastern Massachusetts, both recently included as featured landscapes, as well as the Concord Grape Belt in New York State. Read the whole interview here.

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Help NY State Heritage Areas

By Guest Observer August 26, 2014

by Paul Bray

A few years ago a delegation of environmentalists and officials from the Adirondack Park visited Lake Baikal in Russia. Lake Baikal is so large that it is often mistaken for a sea. It is the deepest and largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world, and thought to be the world’s oldest as well. Famous for its crystal clear waters and unique wildlife, the lake is under threat by pollution, poaching and development.

An Adirondack lawyer on the trip told me that they had a boat ride with a group of Russians. One of the Russians said to him “Why are we wasting our time with Americans? Russia has a culture that produced great writers like Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and Chekhov, great musicians like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov and great dancers like Baryshnikov, Nureyev, and Nijinsky. What has America contributed to the world?” The American lawyer responded bluntly saying that America has contributed “the rule of law.”
Credit: New York State Government

While Russian culture has much to admire, it is rule of law that makes America special. As a drafter of laws for 30 years at the state Legislature and as an engaged citizen, I respect our state laws. It is troubling to me when, for example, a law like the state heritage area law is ignored and intentionally is not funded or not supported with staff, as is happening in the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic preservation law under the Cuomo administration.

The New York State Heritage Area System Act of the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law enacted in 1982 represents the first and most comprehensive attempt at creating a statutory framework for the designation and management of urban and regional heritage settings.

Today, the system has 20 heritage areas, like the Albany Heritage Area, designated by the state Legislature. The 1982 New York law creating a system of 13 state heritage areas is the forerunner of the 49 National Heritage Areas, which include the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Hudson River National Heritage area. The first National Heritage Area, The Illinois-Michigan National Heritage Corridor, was created 30 years in 1984 ago by Congress.

We should think of the state’s heritage as the Europeans think of their cultural heritage. Europeans consider it their “common wealth — our inheritance from previous generations of Europeans and our legacy for those to come,” as the European Commission puts it in a report this year on an integrated approach to the cultural heritage of Europe. “It is an irreplaceable repository of knowledge and a valuable resource for economic growth, employment and social cohesion.”
The report goes on to recognize that “cultural heritage is a shared resource, and a common good. Like other such public goods it can be vulnerable to over-exploitation and under-funding, which can result in neglect, decay and, in some cases, oblivion. Looking after our heritage is, therefore, our common responsibility.”

New York’s heritage areas are “partnership parks” encompassing public and private interests as well as partnership between state and local government. The award-winning state plan for the state heritage area system declared “the principal state agency responsible for establishing the System will be the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.”
But our state parks agency abandoned the state heritage areas and their law, leaving the responsibility to local governments.

Some heritage areas have had success; others have failed for lack of state partnership support. This abandonment of the state heritage area law, which remains in the state law books, is a sad example of the failure of the rule of law by the state of New York.

* This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on August 11, 2014
Paul Bray’s email is secsunday@aol.com

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How to Write Off Traditional Cultural Properties: the Gladesmen Report

By Guest Observer July 31, 2014

by Tom King

Note: This article was first posted as an entry on the weblog Tom King’s CRM Plus on July 8, 2014.

Credit: National Park Service

Historic image of Gladesmen using Dune Buggies in the Everglades. Credit: NPS

I recently reviewed a report prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by New South Associates, entitled You Just Can’t Live Without it: Ethnographic Study and Evaluation of Traditional Cultural Properties of the Modern Gladesmen Culture. I hoped that the report would describe a good traditional cultural properties (TCP) study that focused on places of concern to groups of people other than Native Americans or Native Hawai’ians.  Such studies are rare; although National Register Bulletin 38 on the identification and documentation of TCPs makes it clear that diverse groups of people can value such places, there is a tendency to limit the context in which the TCP concept is applied.

I was deeply disappointed by the Gladesmen report, and feel obligated to say why.

Who Are the Gladesmen?

The Gladesmen are mostly Euro-american (especially Scots-Irish) rural residents of Florida’s Everglades. They’re broadly characterized as a subdivision of the American South’s “Cracker” culture of self-sufficient rural subsistence farming, fishing, hunting, gathering and very small-scale industry. Gladesmen comprise the families that have for generations lived in and around the Everglades, more or less making their livings by hunting alligators and other game, fishing, plume gathering, moonshining, and small-scale agriculture (See Simmons & Ogden 2010, Ogden 2011).

The Study

The ethnographic study of Gladesmen TCPs was commissioned by the Corps of Engineers in connection with a Master Recreation Plan being developed as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Apparently the possibility of National Register eligible TCPs was raised during public meetings on the CERP, and the Corps contracted with New South to determine whether any existed. New South undertook a program of background research and ethnographic interviews to reach conclusions about whether any Gladesmen TCPs were present. Having identified thirteen candidate sites, they went through them and concluded that only two were in fact TCPs eligible for the Register – though they hedge their bets by calling for some to be analyzed further if some future action threatens them.

Critique

So why did I find the Gladesmen study so disappointing? Let me try to explain:

What Was Evaluated?

It is not clear to me how the thirteen sites studied were selected, or indeed why specific sites were selected at all. Comments on the draft report by Palm Beach County Archaeologist Christian Davenport identified a number of other seemingly relevant locations that should have been considered, as well as additional informants. New South breezily dismisses Davenport’s comments as “outside the scope of this preliminary study.” Exactly what the study is “preliminary” to is unclear. What particularly puzzles me is why the authors felt compelled to focus on specific locations. One clear feature of Gladesmen culture is the mobility of its participants; they traveled and still travel all over the Glades. Why wasn’t the overall landscape evaluated? By focusing on specific locations (albeit including some linear properties like roads and streams), it seems to me that the study atomizes the environment that Gladesmen value, making it easy to devalue its specific parts.

Which is what the report proceeds to do.

(Mis)understanding TCPs

Although the authors of the report have apparently at least looked at National Register Bulletin 38, there is little evidence that they’ve tried very hard to understand it. Instead, it appears that they have cherry-picked concepts, and in some cases made them up, to support their conclusions.

In Chapter II, for example, on page 10, we are told that:

“(a)n identified historic property usually must be 50 years old to be considered a TCP.”

This implies that a place must first be “identified” as an historic property and then considered for TCP status if it is 50 years old. This of course stands the evaluation process on its head. A place is a TCP if it is regarded by people as important in sustaining their traditional cultural values; having recognized that it has this value, then one applies the National Register criteria and criteria considerations to see if it is Register-eligible. And of course, “50 years old” is a deeply simplistic gloss on the actual “Fifty-year rule” laid out in the Register’s criteria considerations.

The same paragraph characterizes the “integrity” of a TCP as referring to “a sustained, integral relationship to traditional cultural or beliefs” and a condition that is “sufficient to convey significance.” This may be a clumsy gloss on the Bulletin’s discussion of a TCP’s two kinds of integrity – integrity of association and integrity of condition – but if so it is a clumsy one indeed. The reference to a “sustained…relationship,” for example, is made up out of whole cloth, but neatly sets the authors up for their subsequent dismissal of eleven of the sites. The allusion to “convey(ing) significance” – another notion not derived from Bulletin 38 – helps the authors dismiss the significance of the sites based on their own perceptions (i.e. the perceptions of those to whom the sites do or do not convey things) – never mind those of the Gladesmen.

“Continuity” Claptrap

On the same page, we are told that:

“the most critical element in whether or not a property represents a TCP is its role in long term and continuous maintenance of a given culture” (emphasis added).

“Continuity” is a notion that has no basis whatever in Bulletin 38. The Bulletin succinctly says, on page 18, that “(t)he fact that a property may have gone unused for a lengthy period of time … does not make the property ineligible for the (National) Register.” Let alone ineligible to be a TCP. Continuity as a “critical element” – or indeed any kind of element – is something that has been made up to justify dismissing the significance of places from whose use people have been lately excluded. As many Indian tribes can testify, the fact that one has been made unable to maintain the traditional use of a place – through relocation, forcible exclusion, genocide, or other historical circumstance – by no means renders the place insignificant. Yet the authors of the Gladesmen study elevate their whole-cloth invention to the status of “most critical element” in determining whether a place is a TCP. They go on to explain:

“Because continuity in use plays such an important role in defining TCPs, changes in a property’s use or association through time can change the eligibility status of that property. If extensive changes or discontinuity in use occur through time, a site that has integrity may still be eligible for recording as a historic property…. But it would not maintain the necessary level of significance for recording as a TCP.”

This “important role” that the authors assign to “continuity in use” forms the basis for the rest of the study’s dismissive “analysis.” But it is a status assigned by the authors based on no stated authority, and it is directly inconsistent with the plain language of Bulletin 38.

Inflating Misstatements

Perhaps following the maxim that if you tell a big enough lie often enough it becomes the truth, the authors repeatedly reframe and elaborate on their misstatements. On page 103, Chapter VII, for instance, as they set about “identifying Gladesmen TCPs,” they say that:

“(i)t is important to restate here that many properties associated with Gladesmen Culture may warrant recording as ‘historic properties’… but not all of these will meet the criteria for recording them (sic) as TCPs. The NRHP guidelines distinguish a TCP as a property that not only meets existing criteria as a historic property … but is also one that represents a continuing association with the (Gladesmen) culture whose primary importance is its role in maintaining cultural identity and practice.”

So now a Gladesmen TCP must not only be eligible for the Register and “represent a continuing association” (whatever that means), but must have “maintaining cultural identity and practice” as its “primary importance.” How in the world is anyone supposed to ascertain whether a place meets all these new and inventive standards? Who, for instance, is supposed to decide whether a place’s role in “maintaining cultural identify and practice” is “primary?” As opposed to secondary, tertiary, or quaternary?

Note, too, the reference to “NRHP guidelines.” What guidelines are these? Certainly not Bulletin 38. The bibliography also refers to National Register Bulletin 15; if that bulletin provides advice upon which the authors base their assumptions, it would have been helpful for them to have provided a specific citation. But no, we are simply assured that New South’s case is grounded on “NRHP guidelines.”

The mysterious “guidelines” are referred to again on page 124, where we are told that:

“NRHP guidelines distinguish a TCP as a property that not only meets existing (as opposed, one imagines, to nonexistent) criteria as a historic property … but is also one that represents a continuing association whose primary importance is its role in maintaining cultural identity and practice.”

The authors go on to warn us that:

“(p)roperties will not meet TCP criteria if the continuity of their use has significantly changed over time, if they do not retain sufficient integrity, and, most importantly, if they do not contribute to maintaining Gladesmen Culture as a whole.”

Again, as far as I can tell, New South has made up these standards on the spot, out of thin air.

Who Sez?

But let’s assume just for a moment that there really is some National Register guideline that makes all those preposterous statements. How would one operationalize it? Notably, who is to determine whether the use of a place has “significantly changed?” Or whether it retains “sufficient” integrity? “Sufficient” relative to what? And who decides whether a place contributes to maintaining Gladesmen Culture, particularly “as a whole?”

New South never tells us, but it becomes abundantly clear that the invariable answer to the question of “who says” is: you guessed it, New South. Despite Bulletin 38’s repeated calls for evaluating the significance and integrity of places with reference to the views and beliefs of those who value them, the Gladesmen report authors never miss a beat in skipping from describing properties to evaluating them, with never a reference that I could find to the views of Gladesmen themselves. Chapter IX presents the study’s “results,” which the authors unblushingly identify on page 131 as “New South Associates’ findings.”

The Bottom Line

And what are these findings? That eleven of the thirteen properties described just haven’t been “demonstrated” (by whom?) to be TCPs, or lack “sufficient” information to permit evaluation. Two properties – a duck camp and the site of an airboat association (already identified by the Corps as eligible for the Register) are identified as honest-to-gosh TCPs.

Here’s one typical example of how New South writes off possible TCPs. It happens to be Duck Camp #2, but it could be any of the others.

“Oral history suggests that this campsite has been in use by modern Gladesmen since the late 1950s, as well as during earlier times. However, use of the camp by regional Gladesmen changed with its ownership by Governor Kirk, and the current camp cabin was not built until the 1970s. While the location has a known Gladesmen association that qualifies it as an historic property, New South does not recommend Duck Camp #2 to the NRHP as a TCP.”

Just like that. The site is associated through oral history with Gladesmen use since sometime before the late 1950s but New South in its Olympian wisdom “does not recommend” it as a TCP.

Why? Well, we’re not told, but maybe it has something to do with that 1970s house. But we’re talking about a site here, are we not? Which in NRHP lingo means a piece of real property regardless of any buildings or structures on it. Or maybe it’s something in the oral history – maybe people say “naah, we don’t care about that place.” If that’s what they say, it might have been nice of the authors to mention it. But New South apparently feels no need to justify its judgments with data; it is sufficient that it “does not recommend” the place.

The statement does go on:

“The camp appears to be typical of a mid-century Everglades backcountry camp that is used by an individual or a small number of people.”

Is this some sort of implicit standard? Must the camp be atypical? Used by more than a “small” (sic) number of people? We are not told. We are told, however – in another unsubstantiated statement of imperious opinion, that:

“Duck Camp #2 does not exhibit a continuing association with modern Gladesmen Culture as a whole and therefore is not recommended as a TCP.”

Excuse me? Have the authors not just asserted that Duck Camp #2 has a Gladesmen association extending back to before the 1950s? Is this somehow not “continuing?” Did Governor Kirk’s ownership sever that relationship? If so, how? Or is the failure somehow to reflect association with Gladesman culture “as a whole” what dooms the camp? The (somewhat) detailed data on Duck Camp #2 found on pages 156-60 does not clarify.

The rest of the evaluations are similar. Each briefly summarizes descriptive data on the site and then states a conclusion, substantiated by nothing other than New South’s self-assumed authority

Conclusions

What are we to make of this report? It’s certainly not an example I intend to cite – except perhaps as an indicator of how not to evaluate TCPs. But why in the world is it as it is? Does it give the Corps of Engineers anything it can really use in designing and carrying out the CERP? Does it give Gladesmen any help in preserving these places that, as the report’s title implies, they “just can’t live without?” Did preparing it accomplish anything other than to support some New South employees for a while and bring New South some overhead?

I don’t know, but I do know that the report butchers the very notion of traditional cultural properties, wildly misinterpreting Bulletin 38. I suspect, too, that it has given the Corps an ostensibly authoritative basis for writing off the traditional cultural significance of Gladesmen sites – and perhaps more importantly, of Gladesmen cultural landscapes – as it moves forward with implementing the CERP.

References

Ogden, Laura A.
2011 Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press

Parker, Patricia L. and Thomas F. King

1990 Guidelines for the Evaluation and Documentation of Traditional Cultural Properties. National Register Bulletin 38. Washington DC, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.

Simmons, Glenn, and Laura Ogden
2010 Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers. Gainesville, University Press of Florida.

Addendum: After this review appeared on my weblog, I received a note from a source that I regard as entirely reliable, advising me that the Gladesmen report had been modified significantly after its author turned it in, without her knowledge or consent, essentially reversing her conclusions. If this is true — and I have no reason to think it is not, it absolves her of responsibility for the report, but does nothing to resolve the larger issues. Sadly, I think the kind of thing the published Gladesmen report represents is pretty typical of standard “professional” practice these days in cultural resource management and environmental impact assessment.

Thomas F. (Tom) King is the author, co-author, or editor of ten books on aspects of cultural heritage, and the co-author of National Register Bulletin 38 on the identification and documentation of traditional cultural places. He is a consultant based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and can be contacted at tomking106 at gmail.com.

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New Report: Climate Change Threatens United States’ most cherished historic sites

By Guest Observer July 30, 2014

A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists documents the consequences of climate change that are putting many of the country’s most iconic and historic sites at risk. From Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California’s César Chávez National Monument, these sites face a perilous and uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increased flooding, and other damaging effects of climate change.
Read the full report: National Landmarks at Risk

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Theater Production Tells Story of Birth of First Women’s Labor Union

By Guest Observer July 1, 2014

By Paul M. Bray, Special Advisor to the Riverspark Heritage Area Commission

File:Kate Mullany House Marker 30May2008.jpg

Kate Mullany House, National Historic Landmark designation. Photo: NPS

At a time when labor unions are under siege, the story of the birth of the labor movement reveals how unions made the growth of the America’s middle class possible.

Early chapters of the story include the establishment of the nation’s first bona fide all-female union took place in Troy 150 years ago’. This occurred under the leadership of a young Irish immigrant Kate Mullany and her colleague Esther Keegan who reacted to the low wages, long hours of 12 to 14 hours a day and unsafe conditions in the collar factories. Local writer and director Ruth Harvey dramatized the story in a new musical Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot! Hundreds of people recently saw the musical at the Bush Auditorium at Russell Sage in Troy.

Speaking about Mullany, Henry said “I love the idea of a real person who was like a super hero. She had no particular talents but she had heart. She is a great role model…for young people today.” Kate was in her early 20s when her father died leaving her family without money. She went to work in a collar and cuff factory to support her mother and siblings and it was not long before she stepped out of the factory and onto the streets to make public the conditions of the collar workplace.

She ultimately led a week long strike in 1864 that gained collar workers a 25% increase in their wages. After the strike, Kate’s mother purchased land on Eighth Street in Troy and built a brick duplex with three units on each side of this row house that is today a National Landmark and is also listed on the New York State Women’s Heritage Trail.

There is a long story of good and ugly deeds that led to the recognition of Kate Mullany. It all came back to me as I watched the musical.
In the 1970s, five neighboring communities that shared a location on the Hudson River and an industrial heritage created at the municipal level what has become the Riverspark Heritage Area, the first of 20 New York state heritage areas. Its purposes are to interpret and promote the area’s industrial and labor history.

Kate Mullany House

View of the Kate Mullany House in Troy. Credit: NPS

The structures like the Harmony Mills in Cohoes and homes of the rich on 2nd Street in Troy were evident, but workers did not leave much of built legacy. The Riverspark commission hired cultural historians to identify its worker landmarks. Kate Mullany’s home on 8th Street in Troy, the worker housing at the Harmony Mills and Druids Hall were highlighted in the resulting report.

Mullany’s role in the labor movement caught the attention of now retired Secretary-Treasurer of New York’s AFL-CIO Paul Cole who carried the ball. He got the State AFL-CIO to recognize the “uniquely rich history of organized labor and working-class culture” in Riverspark calling it “labor’s Williamsburg”. He was a key ally in getting national recognition for Mullany and having her home protected, restored and designated as both a National Landmark and a National Historic Site in the National Park System. He also established the American Labor Studies Center that he manages at the Mullany House as the House is being fully restored to be able to open it to the public in 2015. There were many road blocks along the way.

The National Park Service did not have a theme study for labor history. Theme studies are the vehicle to identify key national sites for inclusion in the National Park System and as National Historic Landmarks. Thanks to former Congressmen Mike McNulty whose district included Riverspark, former Congressman Bruce Vento from Minnesota and New York State’s former Senator Patrick Moynihan, Congress adopted a law calling for a national labor theme study. National Park Service historian Harry Butowsky led the theme study that included recommendations that the Harmony Mills and the Mullany House receive landmark designation.
There was also significant opposition to the effort. Some people were ideologically opposed to unions, while others did not believe the achievements of a female labor organizer with little formal education worth recognizing and preserving. Another group expressed concerns about the contemporary setting of the Mullany House, which was located in a distressed section of Troy.

Thanks to Paul Cole, Harry Butowsky, union members who painted the House, advocacy from the Riverspark Heritage Area, state officials who provided necessary funding for restoration of the House and others like Hillary Clinton, who as First Lady included the Mullany House on her National Treasures Tour, despite the fact that the National Park Service did not encourage the visit, the Mullany House has been saved, is a National Landmark and is a National Historic Site in the National Park System.

When the First Lady made her visit to dedicate the Landmark plaque for the Mullany House, it was wonderful to see the awe in the faces of the street kids at seeing the First Lady on the Mullany Street.

Courtesy: Kate Mullany National Historic Site

Scene from Don’t Iron while the Strike is Hot!, a musical on the life of Kate Mullany. Photo: Kate Mullany National Historic Site

Harvey’s musical according to author Carole Turbin, “shows how labor activism really works”. In this case led by a young Irish immigrant woman who went on to lead efforts to improve collar worker’s conditions for six years and was named assistant secretary of the National Labor Union. Paul Cole calls her “one of early American labor history’s most important women.” Paul also said, “Given the fact that a majority of Americans say they know nothing or little about unions, this musical about a group of courageous Irish immigrants is a wonderful way for students, teachers and others to witness why workers need an organized voice in the workplace to improve their wages and working conditions. It is as true today as it was in 1864.

Copies of the Mullany script and a music CD can be purchased by contacting author Ruth Henry at henryr@nycap.rr.com. Educational resources on Mullany can be found at www.katemullanynhs.org.
The contemporary Mullany story is a good example of how heritage areas can be the catalyst for engaging communities and our political leaders to bring an unrecognized chapter of our history alive.

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Digital Landscapes

By Guest Observer June 1, 2014

Can new digital technologies aid in the documentation, interpretation, and protection of large landscapes? Below are a few interesting projects and tools from around the web that seek to do just that.

Landscope America – a collaborative project of NatureServe and the National Geographic Society, which brings together maps, data, photos, and stories.  The site includes in-depth features on specific regions, including the Chesapeake.

The Spatial History Project at Stanford University – a place for students, staff, and scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to engage in creative spatial, textual and visual analysis to further research in the humanities. The site features many projects, including Reconstructing California Conservation History and Shaping the West.

Mapbox is an open source mapping platform – check out InfoAmazonia to see what some of its capabilities are

“Story maps” are a new interactive web technology created by ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud-based mapping and GIS system. There are a variety of project collections (including conservation, planning, and history) worth browsing to get an idea of how other individuals and organizations have combined narrative and mapping.

The Practitioners’ Network for Large Landscape Conservation has created maps compiled from a variety of resources, which document a growing number of landscape-scale conservation initiatives across North America.

Please add more links in the comments section!

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Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Seeking New Executive Director

By Guest Observer June 1, 2014

The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Inc. (Blackstone) seeks an Executive Director.

Established in 2010, Blackstone is a Massachusetts non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors consisting of between 15 and 25 members. Its mission is to work in partnership with the National Park Service and other key partner organizations in the Blackstone River Valley to preserve, protect and interpret the cultural, historic and natural resources found there, and in particular those which tell the story of American industrialization as it began and evolved in the Blackstone River Valley, including the Blackstone River, the Blackstone Canal, mills, mill villages, farms and other historic structures, sites and landscapes.

Blackstone traces its roots to 1986 when Congress established the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (the “Corridor”), which encompasses all or parts of 24 communities extending from Providence, RI to Worcester, MA. As part of the authorizing legislation, Congress also established a bi-state federal commission under the auspices of the Secretary of the Interior (the “Commission”) charged with managing the Corridor for the purpose of “preserving and interpreting the unique and significant contributions to our national heritage of certain historic and cultural lands, waterways and structures within the states of Massachusetts and Rhode.”

The Commission’s progress over two decades led Congress in 2006 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to study whether a new unit of the National Park System should be established in the Blackstone River Valley. After conducting significant research and analysis over a period of several years the National Park Service concluded that a new unit was warranted which would include the Blackstone River and its tributaries, the Blackstone Canal and several specific sites in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Legislation to create the new unit is presently pending in Congress.

Blackstone is the regional partner organization charged with preserving, protecting and interpreting the many sites and landscapes in the Corridor that lie outside the boundaries of the proposed park. Since inception, Blackstone has worked with both the National Park Service and with cities, towns and local partner organizations in the Corridor on a variety of projects and issues, including the Blackstone River bikeway, gateway visitor centers in Pawtucket, RI and Worcester, MA, river access and water quality programs.

Building on this record of achievement and with a FY 2014 operating budget exceeding $497,000, the new Executive Director will have the opportunity to undertake a strategic planning process and invent new ways for the organization to influence the Valley’s future. He or she must keep abreast of life in the Valley and develop working relationships with municipal and non-profit partner organizations in order to identify and cooperate in promoting their common interests. The new Executive Director will lead efforts to deepen and broaden participation of local volunteers in Blackstone’s programs. The new Executive Director will oversee annual and major gift fundraising and keep the organization on a sound financial footing.

Qualifications: Blackstone seeks an entrepreneurial not-for-profit leader with a portfolio of demonstrable success and 5-10 years of management and supervisory experience. The ideal candidate will have an informed passion for historic preservation and environmental conservation advocacy. He or she will have expertise in fundraising, including foundation and government grant writing, membership development, annual fundraising and major gift programs. Experience in working with a volunteer board, in strategic planning, and in building organizational capacity is essential. The successful candidate will have excellent written and spoken communication skills and the ability to recruit and inspire others. A baccalaureate degree is required, and a graduate or professional degree in a relevant discipline, are preferred credentials.

How to apply:

Review of candidate materials will begin immediately and continue until an appointment is made. A complete application will include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae or resume and contact information for five professional references who can speak about the candidate’s qualifications for this specific opportunity. Expressions of interest, applications, nominations and inquiries should be directed to Blackstone’s search consultant, Chuck O’Boyle of C. V. O’Boyle, LLC, at chuck@cvoboyle.com. All communications will be held in confidence and references will not be contacted without the candidate’s prior consent. Blackstone is an equal-opportunity employer, committed to principles of affirmative action in its recruiting and hiring practices.

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#NHA30: Tales from the Towpaths

By Guest Observer June 1, 2014

By Allen Sachse

National parks are popular. Despite our nation’s fiscal limitations, the American public has shown no sign of tiring of their national parks or desiring reductions in park opportunities. To the contrary, there is a demand for more services and accessibility to our public lands, especially near centers of population. So as we approach the second century of the National Park Service (NPS), how do we address these seemingly incongruent realities? A major part of the answer is that the NPS will be required to expand its current level and use of public/private partnerships. The national heritage area model is a public/private partnership model which has over-­‐time been proven to work.

The NPS has the daunting mission of preserving the resources and interpreting the most significant American stories. No doubt, Jon Jarvis, Director of the NPS, recognized the contribution National Heritage Areas (NHA) could make to this effort when he stated, “National Heritage Areas are places where small investments pay huge dividends, providing demonstrable benefits in communities across the country and in partnership with our national Parks.”

Credit: Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor

Josiah White Canal Boat Ride in the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Credit: Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor

Through my work as the former Executive Director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Area, I developed a keen interest in this country’s early industrial transportation system of canals. So when visiting the District of Columbia, I often will stay in the Georgetown neighborhood. This affords me the opportunity in the evening to enjoy the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park (C&O). The NPS does an exceptional job of preserving this tremendous asset with a modest operation and maintenance budget of approximately $9.3 million. However, as impressed as I am by the care and interpretation of the C&O, it is still difficult for people to truly understand how important canals were in the 19th century to the growth and development of this nation.

Early canals connected many of the inland towns to the major maritime cities. They were financed by both private capital and public funds. Often the engineers were presented with unprecedented challenges of geography in the design and construction. Construction required a massive labor force, which was not readily available. Canals provided waterpower for mills; canals moved massive amounts coal and other raw materials to manufacturers of industrial products; canals transported the manufactured products to the consumers, improving commerce and trade; canals became the means to grow and expand our young nation. Canals linked the eastern markets to the Great Lakes and then on to the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. There are seven NHAs whose stories emanate from canals – Augusta Canal, Blackstone River Valley, Delaware & Lehigh, Erie Canalway, Illinois & Michigan, Ohio and Erie Canalway, and Schuylkill River.

Credit: Schuylkill River Heritage Area

Lock 60 Schuylkill River Heritage Area. Credit: Schuylkill River Heritage Area

Each of these NHAs is working in partnership with the NPS, state, and local agencies to preserve and tell this nationally significant story. Collectively, the seven NHAs received approximately $3.7 million in NPS Heritage Partnership funding in fiscal year 2014. Granted, one cannot accurately compare the cost of managing any given mile of a historic canal to another, for the resources truly differ. However, one can easily see that local ownership and multiple partners sharing the management responsibility can pay real dividends to the NPS as they face the challenge of preserving and sharing the stories of transportation, industrial growth, capital, immigration, labor, settlement, and more. However, it is equally important to note that because of the entrepreneurial nature of most NHAs the local partners also reap the benefits of this partnership by creating and supporting local jobs through investments in their community and heritage tourism. Regrettably many of this nation’s historic canals have been lost to time and neglect. These seven systems were also vulnerable, but because of the partnership work of these NHAs much has been saved for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

Credit: Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Credit: Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

These seven NHA partnerships are conserving approximately 1,000 miles of historic canal corridors and in the process saving miles of watered canal. Today these historic canals and towpaths are becoming tomorrow’s network of trails and blue ways connecting population centers to parks and historical sites of national, state, and local importance. The waterfront towns along the way are experiencing re-­‐purposed buildings and preserved neighborhoods. This is all accomplished by leveraging the collective resources and the partners’ commitment to preserving their shared heritage and sense of place.

There are many lessons to be learned about partnership management by studying the successes of the NHA program as it has evolved over the past three decades. At the request of Congress, the NPS commissioned a series of evaluations of nine of the longstanding NHAs. Westat, an external evaluation firm, undertook the work. The evaluations have been completed and the findings verify the accomplishments of the nine NHA partnerships to address the purpose defined in the legislative language and the original designation; the NHAs ability to leverage additional funds to meet program and infrastructure needs 4–1 (local to federal) in most cases; the NHAs showed sound management and fiscal responsibility; the NHAs relied on public participation and created partnerships to carry out the work; the partners preserved nationally significant resources; and the NPS gained an invaluable partner.

Allen Saches serves as the President of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas and was formerly the Executive Director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Prior to that position he had almost 30 years of service with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Community Affairs.

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Observing the War on Poverty on the Landscape

By Guest Observer April 29, 2014

By Angela Sirna

In his 1964 State of the Union Address, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed, "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort."

In his 1964 State of the Union Address, President Johnson proclaimed, “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.” Photo: NARA via Wikimedia Commons

In January 1964, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty.” A quick Google search today will tell you that the legacy of this war is still hotly debated fifty years later, prompting journalists, politicians, academics, bureaucrats, and the public to ask: “Did we win or lose the war on poverty?” Ideological lines, of course, split the answer. I believe that in examining the legacy of these anti-poverty measures we need to go back to places where these programs were first established and critically examine the cultural values these spaces embody.

I found myself examining the War on Poverty in an unexpected place—a national park. This past year I have been doing a special study on social reform programs at Catoctin Mountain Park, a small park tucked away in central Maryland only a short distance away from Washington, D.C. Not many people are aware that Catoctin has a long history of social reform—from the relocation of farmers to create a Recreational Demonstration Area during the New Deal to the establishment of the very first Job Corps program in the nation in 1965.

Congress passed the Johnson administration’s Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, which gave the government the ammunition to fight the War on Poverty. The legislation created a number of programs many Americans still use today, including, among many things, Head Start, College Work-Study, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), and the Job Corps. The Economic Opportunity Act created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to coordinate these programs, and Johnson asked Sargent Shriver, founder of the Peace Corps, to lead the new agency.

The OEO, National Park Service (NPS), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) set to work before the bill was passed to identify suitable locations for the Job Corps program. It is little coincidence that they chose Catoctin to be the first center. Job Corps administrators initially modeled the Job Corps program after the popular Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which put hundreds of thousands of young men to work in conservation projects at state and national parks and forests across the country during the New Deal. Works Progress Administration workers and CCC enrollees transformed Catoctin from a collection of farmsteads and timber lots to a park during the New Deal. The OEO and NPS identified the former CCC camp (now known as Round Meadow) to be an ideal location for the Job Corps program because they believed the old camp could be easily converted into a Job Corps Conservation Center (JCCC). They literally built the new center on the foundations of the old CCC camp underscoring their belief that they could meet or surpass the popularity of the CCC program.

February 1965 dedication of center in February 1965 showing Udall and Shriver getting ready to raise the flag in front the administrative building

February 1965 dedication of the Catoctin JCCC center. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall and OEO Director Sargent Shriver join corps members to raise the flag in front of the administrative building. Photo: Courtesy NPS

The Catoctin JCCC opened in January 1965 and welcomed thirty boys between the ages of 16 and 21 from inner city Baltimore and the hills of Appalachia. The Job Corps administration’s high expectations that the Job Corps would meet or surpass the success of the CCC quickly dissipated as enrollees began dropping out in record numbers. Catoctin lost nearly forty percent in its first six months and struggled to keep staff. Politicians and journalists scrutinized the Catoctin JCCC using the center as a measuring stick for the War on Poverty’s success or failure.

The resemblance of the Job Corps to the New Deal CCC program was only superficial. The Job Corps, established during the Civil Rights era, was purposefully integrated, while the CCC was segregated. The two programs also differed in purpose. CCC administrators were concerned with putting young men to work through conservation projects. The Job Corps aimed at education and vocational training for young men, many of whom were illiterate. The OEO also had the ambitious goal of ending poverty in the United States. Job Corps administrators approached poverty as a problem of environmental and material circumstance. They thought that moving young men from “negative” environments to a more “positive,” healthful setting (such as the salubrious environment of a national park) would enable enrollees to pull themselves out of poverty. Administrators were surprised that any participant would leave a Job Corps center to go back home to his family and friends.

Job corps members work in the Catoctin sign shop. Image: NPS

Job corps members work in the Catoctin sign shop. Photo: Courtesy NPS

Catoctin JCCC remained open from 1964 to 1969. Johnson’s successor, Republican President Richard Nixon, reduced the program and closed conservation centers, including Catoctin. Contemporaries saw the Catoctin JCCC as a political failure, but many of the lessons learned at Catoctin paved the way for future Job Corps centers and youth programs. And some individuals did benefit from the Job Corps program. Lamar Marchese arrived at Catoctin in March 1965 as one of the very first VISTA volunteers in the country. His time at Catoctin launched a long career of public service, during which time he founded Nevada Public Radio. Lamar recalled a group of young men that he called “The Wolf Pack” that stuck together throughout their time at Catoctin and were committed to improving their educational and vocational skills. Catoctin JCCC also nurtured the artistic talents of a young man named Saul Haymond, who graduated from the program and became a renowned folk artist upon his retirement from farm labor in Mississippi.

View of the Job Corps Kitchen and Dining Hall at Catoctin Mountain, which the NPS converted from an eight bay garage building used by the CCC. It is still possible to see the timbers from the garage bay inside the dining hall. Part of evaluating the War on Poverty landscape, will be an assessment of structures like this one. Photo by Angela Sirna.

View of the Job Corps Kitchen and Dining Hall at Catoctin Mountain Park, which the NPS converted in the 1960’s from an eight bay garage used by the CCC. It is still possible to see the timbers from the garage bay inside the dining hall. Part of evaluating the War on Poverty landscape, will be an assessment of structures like this one. Photo: Angela Sirna

It is difficult to evaluate the legacy of the War on Poverty without examining these programs on the local level. Catoctin is a useful place to begin because it was a model for other centers and much of the infrastructure remains in situ today. The Job Corps dining hall, administrative office, maintenance shop, laundry and storage buildings, and gymnasium are intermingled with New Deal architecture. Next year most of these buildings will turn fifty years old and should be evaluated for the National Register for Historic Places –  How will preservationists evaluate this landscape’s significance and integrity?

This is not an issue just for Catoctin.  There were eight other Job Corps centers established in national parks between 1965 and 1969, including Oconaluftee and Tremont at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Great Onyx at Mammoth Cave National Park, Wellfleet at Cape Cod National Seashore, a center at Acadia National Park, the Gap at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Liberty Park at the Statue of Liberty, and a center at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Only Harpers Ferry, Oconaluftee, and Great Onyx remain in operation today, though they are administered by the USFS, not the NPS. The USFS also had dozens of Job Corps centers. Likely, many of these parks and forests retain sites shaped by the War on Poverty and should also be evaluated to give a richer view of this dynamic period. But to do so calls for managers to take a hard look at this complicated legacy, and evaluate their agency’s role in the narrative.

Angela Sirna is a doctoral candidate in public history at Middle Tennessee State University. She was the Public Historian in Residence at Catoctin Mountain Park this past year and is finishing a Special Resource Study on human conservation programs at the park throughout the twentieth century. She is writing her dissertation on the development of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park from the New Deal through the Great Society. 

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The Atlantic Coast Flyway: A Highway for Shorebird Migration

By Guest Observer March 31, 2014

By Debra Reynolds

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Map of the Atlantic Flyways. Created by Debra Reynolds

Each year shorebirds use habitats across a vast geography, undertaking some of the longest migrations of any animals on earth. Within the Atlantic Flyway, many shorebird species breed on the Canadian Arctic tundra during summer, and then fly south in the fall to winter along the eastern shores of South America. During this international flight, they stop at several critical sites like the Delaware Bay and Caribbean Islands. While there, they rest and refuel to survive the long journey. Unfortunately, many of these shorebird populations are in trouble.

Atlantic Flyway shorebirds are exposed to a diverse set of human-induced threats like habitat loss and change, hunting in the Caribbean, and predators. Effective shorebird conservation thus requires a wide-ranging approach to identify and reduce these threats at sites all along the flyway. Such an approach must involve coordinated research, conservation, and management efforts among many groups and across many political boundaries. It must consolidate resources and target them to priority sites and actions to ensure efficient and effective conservation. Only with such a flyway-scale approach can we reverse the serious declines we are witnessing in many of our shorebird populations.

The Marbled Godwit, a large shorebird. Credit: William Majoros

The Marbled Godwit, a large Atlantic shorebird. Credit: William Majoros

The Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy is an unprecedented endeavor to implement conservation for shorebirds across an enormous geographic scale. It emphasizes the involvement of scientists, advocates, funders, and conservation practitioners all working together to carry out the most important actions to achieve specific, measurable outcomes for shorebirds. In this way, the strategy presents the needs, actions, and people that can recover this remarkable suite of species.

The strategy addresses the most serious human-induced threats known to affect shorebirds and their habitats in the Atlantic Flyway —one such threat is hunting at Caribbean and 
South American stopover and wintering sites. In 2011, Machi and Goshen, two satellite-tagged Whimbrels were shot by hunters in Guadeloupe after circumventing two hurricanes. This watershed event elevated international attention to the plight of shorebirds from hunting throughout the Caribbean and beyond.

The American Oystercatcher, a vibrantly-colored bird seen along the Atlantic Coast. Credit: William Majoros

The American Oystercatcher, a vibrantly-colored bird seen along the Atlantic Coast. Credit: William Majoros

Partners to the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy have been working together to improve shorebird harvest policy and regulations to thoroughly address the issue of shorebird harvest in the Caribbean and Latin America. For example, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was awarded a grant for $250,000 from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to help manage the hunt of high priority shorebirds in the Caribbean and northern South America.

The enormous task of reversing serious declines in shorebird populations can feel daunting at times. However, inspiration can be gained through stories of partners “called to action.” For instance, a highly focused partnership has been working for several years to restore American Oystercatcher populations. According to Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, “The results have been nothing short of remarkable. It appears oystercatcher numbers have increased 4% in just 48 months. As wildlife professionals know, a reversal of this magnitude during such a short time span is rarely seen.”

This success story reminds us that partners can coordinate their efforts across the full range of species to recover their populations— it is possible. And having a guiding document like the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy makes the job a little easier. Creating a safe highway for travelling shorebirds is within our grasp.

For more information on the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy contact Scott_Johnston@fws.gov. To see the full strategy, visit this site.

– Debra Reynolds
Division of Migratory Birds
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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NHA@30: Key Documents 1983 New York Greenline and Urbanline Parks Conference

By Guest Observer March 30, 2014

The 1970’s and early 1980s were a period of experimentation in the fields of conservation, historic preservation and planning. Looking back, what is perhaps most exciting is the rapprochement (integration may be too strong a word) that occurred across these knowledge areas at the local, state and federal levels.

The mixing and sharing of ideas among practitioners in these different fields, in conjunction with the input, organizing and passion of local communities, resulted in the initiation of a large number of landscape-scale projects.

These proceedings from the 1983 Greenline and Urbanline Parks Conference (link is to a PDF-copy of the document housed in the New York State Library digital collections) capture and report back on wide variety of programs, including the New York Urban Cultural Parks, the New Jersey Pinelands and Lowell National Historical Park – all efforts that would be pivotal in influencing the designation of National Heritage Areas beginning in 1984.

Citation:  Proceedings [of] Greenline and Urbanline Parks Conference : held at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York, Albany, New York on May 20, 1983. Publisher: Department of Environmental Conservation, Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, State of New York.

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Letter from Woodstock: The Presidio Matters

By Guest Observer March 2, 2014

by Rolf Diamant

(Originally printed in the George Wright Forum, Volume 30, N0. 13, 2013)

A few years ago, I suggested at a regional superintendents’ meeting that US national parks were facing a paradoxical future. This was, I said, an era of unprecedented changes and challenges but also, in many ways, a golden age for the National Park Service (NPS)—as it was an organization becoming more sophisticated, focused, and better trained than it has ever been in the past.  More than a few of my colleagues in the room did not agree with this assessment or at least objected to my choice of words as they complained about their operating budget shortfalls, staffing vacancies, various bureaucratic obstacles, and workloads. I couldn’t disagree with any of that—as a superintendent, I was working through similar problems in my own park—but I thought we should recognize that the park system was still growing in many positive directions.  Park superintendents, overall, were becoming more emotionally intelligent and adept at dealing with complexity. New, more inclusive, and successful community engagement strategies were being developed.  Partners were increasingly more nimble and capable and across the park system pockets of useful experimentation and innovation were able to flourish.

Credit: Dan Stern

The Inn at the Presidio, a 22-room restored property

In my sixth “Letter from Woodstock,” I will take a closer look at one of those nodes of useful experimentation and innovation, the Presidio of San Francisco. The 1,500-acre former military post is national parkland managed jointly by the federally chartered Presidio Trust and NPS, nested within the much larger Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  The trust manages about 80% of the Presidio (most historic buildings); NPS is responsible for the other 20% (mostly shoreline property around Crissy Field) and has legislative authorization to provide interpretive services, visitor orientation, and educational programs throughout the Presidio in cooperation with the trust.  (For the record, I worked for Golden Gate about 35 years ago on its first general management plan and I still keep up a membership in the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit partner that supports and assists the Golden Gate National Parks.)

Congress established the trust in 1996 as an independent government corporation with a mandate to manage the Presidio, find new uses for its nearly 800 structures (5.9 million square feet of useable space), and become financially self-sufficient within 15 years—a milestone that the trust reports it has now achieved.  By any measure the Presidio represents one of the most ambitious experiments in public park-making, urban design, and multi-sector cooperation anywhere in the world.  There have been base closures and transitions in other places, but given the distinctive nature of the Presidio, with its vast number of historic structures (over 400), its storied cultural landscape, and the immense urban infrastructure associated with it all, the scale of this undertaking is profoundly different and consequential.

The metrics of Presidio’s ongoing transformation are impressive by any measure. Today much of the residential and non-residential property in the Presidio has been renovated, leased, or rented, and 7,000 people live or work in a spectacular national park setting that attracts, according to the trust, approximately 5 million visitors annually. Three hundred-fifty historic buildings have been renovated, housing thousands of residents and some 225 organizations. The Presidio has been called the largest historic preservation project in the country and it probably is.

On a recent visit to the Presidio, I also saw stream restoration and reforestation projects, a newly built system of pedestrian and bike trails, an urban campground, and several spectacular scenic overlooks.  The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has been the trust’s principal nonprofit partner for much of this impressive park development. I think it is safe to say that the scale and pace of this transformation is without precedent in the modern national park system.

So what can be learned from the Presidio at this point in time?  While many of Presidio Trust’s circumstances and authorities are unique and cannot be easily replicated or adapted, I would direct attention to at least three developments that may have broader application:

  • The Presidio is demonstrating approaches to sustainable city living and sustainable park design, and the two can be merged to offer new ideas for adaptation and resiliency.  One noteworthy example is the revitalization of the 36-acre Presidio Public Health Service District, including the rehabilitation of a derelict six-story hospital and adjacent campus buildings for rental housing, office space, and a school.  Through environmental remediation and by adding new walking trails and overlooks, the Public Health Service District has also further enhanced the national park values of the Presidio. This neighborhood has come back to life with help of NPS-administered preservation tax credits and is the first historic landmark property to be certified by the US Green Building Council as “LEED for Neighborhood Development” for “smart growth, urbanism and green building.”
  • There is an opportunity at the Presidio to evaluate the reciprocal benefits of private and public investments. Repopulating the Presidio with people who live and work there along with shared neighborhood amenities (such as landscaping, public seating, cafés, and shops) encourages expanded recreational use as the public perceives the Presidio as a lively, attractive, and safe environment.  Similarly, the public projects (such as natural area restoration, bikeways, and overlooks) enhance the Presidio as a desirable place to live and work.
  • The governance model of the Presidio Trust has both strengths and weaknesses.  While much can be learned from how the trust carries out its work, particular attention needs to be focused on its relationship with NPS, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.  In the absence of a more structured partnership codified by statute (such as having Golden Gate National Recreation Area formally represented on the trust’s board of directors,) the partnership’s success depends a great deal on leadership, personality, and good will.  It would be instructive to better understand what confidence-building measures and other tools can be used to strengthen and periodically refresh the level of trust, cooperation, and shared vision essential to the health and robustness of the partnership.

The relationship has not always been an easy one between the trust and NPS, particularly in the early years. NPS and park advocates were unhappy with the 1996 Presidio Trust Act that had the trust report to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. NPS would be consulted, but would have no direct oversight. There were further worries that the congressional mandate for the Presidio to be financially self-sustaining in 15 years might later be applied to other parks in the system.  And finally, there was the fear of an even more troubling potential precedent: the reversion section in the act (which would only be invoked if the trust failed) would transfer trust-managed property, not to NPS, but to the General Services Administration, to be withdrawn from Golden Gate National Recreation Area and sold. Beyond misgivings about the legislation, NPS may have been uneasy about the broad authorities granted to the trust by Congress and the trust’s early focus on the real-estate side of its mission. Even today the Presidio is featured on the NPS home page, but curiously there is no mention of the Presidio Trust or link to its programs. For its part, the trust had plenty of trouble finding its own footing in the relationship. Looking at the trust’s annual report released ten years ago, the only collaborative projects with NPS and the conservancy appear to have been water monitoring and songbird inventories. Not so now: this year’s annual report credits the Presidio’s success to  “a strong collaboration” with NPS and the conservancy, the “principal organizational partners” of the trust.

This shift in tone reflects a maturing partnership.  But I suspect that the conservancy has also played an outsized role in facilitating more mutually beneficial cooperation.  Serving as the non-profit partner and cooperating association for both the Presidio Trust and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the conservancy has raised and invested substantial resources in a seamless network of new trails, overlooks, and other world-class visitor and educational facilities shared by both.  Both NPS and the trust had a major stake in the outcome of the conservancy’s hugely successful rescue and revitalization of Crissy Field, and likewise both will share in the many benefits to be derived from the recent gift of $25 million from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation to the conservancy. These funds will create 10 acres of parkland over a newly buried roadway, connecting the Presidio’s historic Main Post with Crissy Field’s marsh and waterfront. The gift will also expand the activities of the Crissy Field Center serving both the park and Presidio as “a nationally recognized program hub for youth engagement in environmental learning and community betterment.”  Reflecting the spirit of this cooperation, more and more signs are appearing bearing the logo of all three organizations—perhaps a modest but symbolic indicator of a new willingness to co-brand and share credit for the enormous transformation that is occurring.

The ultimate success of the Presidio, however, will be largely determined by attaining and holding on to what I call the “sweet spot” in the Presidio Trust’s delicate balancing act of maintaining financial health while continuing to make the Presidio accessible and welcoming to the public, including people from diverse and underserved communities around the Bay Area. Success will also be determined by the trust’s commitment to building a new kind of national park that has, as stated in its mission, “broad relevance” to the larger world and invests in such purposes as “environmental learning and community betterment.”  The “sweet spot” is realized when there is a clear alignment of goals and where the enactment of each part of the Presidio’s mission strengthens and adds value to the other parts. However, this is never going to be easy or non-controversial.

A case in point is the trust’s request for proposals (RFP) for the “Mid-Crissy” area of the Presidio to establish a “cultural institution of international distinction.”  The project would repurpose the former post commissary site and utilize the newly created parkland connecting the Main Post to Crissy Field.  The site, with its commanding views of the Golden Gate, is the Presidio’s keystone. Whatever is built, according to the RFP’s guidelines, must “integrate well with plans for Crissy Field and the Main Post” and “welcome a broad cross-section of the community in a manner that reflects and reaffirms the public nature of the Presidio.”

One of the two leading contenders in the RFP process has been film director George Lucas, who is proposing to construct the “Lucas Cultural Arts Museum,” a 93,000-square-foot building “highlighting populist art from some of the great illustrators of the last 150 years through today’s digital art.”  In an interim review of the proposals, the trust praised the generosity of George Lucas, who has offered to pay for and endow the museum with his own funds, and noted the broad appeal of the museum’s educational opportunities. The trust raised serious concerns, however, over the proposed Lucas museum’s “massing and height and its architectural style design” which the urban design critic of the San Francisco Chronicle has described as “boilerplate Beaux Arts, ornamentation without imagination.”  The trust also questioned the degree to which the Lucas museum would stand apart from its national park environment, not creating the “programmatic connections that would add value to other park programs throughout the Presidio.”

The other leading RFP contender is the trust’s own partner, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. The conservancy has proposed building a “Presidio Exchange,” a  “park-based cultural center that creates, curates, and hosts unique public experiences at the Presidio … that are Presidio-themed, participatory, and cross-disciplinary.”  The Exchange is designed as a highly versatile performance and learning venue, taking cues from some of the nation’s newest and most successful cultural spaces, such as New York City’s Highline Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park.

In their interim review, the trust recognized the conservancy’s exceptional contributions to the Presidio and throughout Golden Gate National Recreation Area and especially its “ethos of partnership in the public interest.”  The trust commended the conservancy’s approach to the Exchange as “varied, flexible and relevant” but asked for a clearer “master narrative” and more information on public programming.

When all is said and done, the conservancy is offering the Presidio a remarkable opportunity.  There are many parts that make up the new Presidio—emerging neighborhoods, distinctive campuses, and newly preserved landscapes. The Exchange would significantly enhance the Presidio’s overall visibility and coherence as a great public park. Building on all the good work that has already been accomplished, the Exchange has the potential, as well, to position the Presidio in the vanguard of a 21st-century national park system that is working to become more inclusive, more collaborative, and more relevant.

The decision on this RFP will not be the first time the Presidio Trust has had to seek out that “sweet spot” under intense scrutiny and political pressure, nor will it be the last.  With the challenge of self-sufficiency now met, however, it will be a bell weather test of Trust’s fidelity to its public mission and will do much to shape the ultimate contours of the Presidio’s character as a national park.

Given the magnitude and breath of this remarkable 15-year transition from “post to park,” and the many important choices still to be made, I think it is time to give the Presidio greater recognition as a valuable part of our national park system.

A great urban national park laboratory has been created at the Presidio for perfecting sustainable practices in environmental remediation and recovery, historic preservation and park design. Just as importantly, the Presidio is also an opportunity to experiment with new approaches to partnership, community building and civic stewardship.  We should take advantage of all that can be learned – particularly the positive interaction of what we have too often chosen to segregate – nature and culture, public and private, recreation and work, urban and open spaces.

It is time to pay more attention.

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NHA@30: The Story of Heritage Areas in New York State

By Guest Observer March 2, 2014

By Paul M. Bray

In the 1970s urban renewal no longer appeared to be a solution to distressed cities. Instead of rejuvenating cities, it increased the destruction of downtown areas. Many city residents were bemoaning the loss of historic properties as urban areas were cleared often with little prospect that they would be rebuilt.

A report coordinated by Lady Bird Johnson analyzed the effects of urban renewal. With Heritage So Rich, an accumulation of essays, called for “an expansive inventory of properties reflecting the nation’s heritage, a mechanism to protect those properties from unnecessary harm caused by federal activities, a program of financial incentives, and an independent federal preservation body to coordinate the actions of federal agencies affecting historic preservation.” The book triggered public awareness of the issue and offered a proposition to handle the situation through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 that included the creation of the National Register of Historic Places and the establishment of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and State Historic Preservation Offices.

Cities like Lowell, Massachusetts and the state of Massachusetts looked to historic preservation as a means of revitalizing urban areas. Massachusetts initiated a state heritage area park program for cities like North Adams, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn. It utilized the development of heritage area visitor centers to tell the stories of selected historic cities and started a buzz about heritage areas that spread beyond the state. Lowell came under the eye of the Federal government and initially used the rubric, urban cultural park, to establish a plan that integrated preservation, education, recreation and sustainable development. It ultimately was designated to be a National Historical Park and continues to have an active presence of the National Park Service.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas from NYSparks.com

Heritage areas came on to the scene in New York State in 1977 also under the name urban cultural parks. Urban cultural park was a tough name for the public to grasp especially for a notion of park that could encompass whole cities or regions. Even the more than century old Adirondack Park without an entrance gate and with a bit more than half its territory being in private ownership was called a “park in the painful process of becoming a park” on its centenary in 1992. So, to call the neighboring communities of Troy, Cohoes, village and town of Waterford, Watervliet and Green Island an urban cultural park was a stretch. Yet, it was a stretch that offered hope of the emergence of a new generation of park types.

In 1976 the young, newly elected Mayor of Cohoes (now retired Majority Leader of the NYS Assembly) bought into the notion of urban cultural parks as a way to capitalize on the heritage resources of multiple neighboring historic communities. This Mayor Ron Canestrari organized his neighboring mayors and supervisors to designate their collective communities the Hudson Mohawk Urban Cultural Park (HMUCP) and establish an inter-municipal commission to realize a vision of communities capitalizing on their 19th century industrial heritage.

Knickerbocker News editorial editor Duane LeFleche got the idea including an appreciation for the name. It was simple, wrote Duane in an editorial. Take the name urban cultural park apart and you have urban meaning a settled area, culture meaning human attainments (more than the arts) and park meaning there is coherence to the settled area including a shared story of the attainments of its residents over time. The coherence of the HMUCP was the shared story of the industrialization of America including iron and cotton in the 19th century.

Some state legislators also got it and in the 1977 legislative session state legislators like Assemblyman EC Sullivan from Manhattan and Senator Joseph Bruno from Troy introduced two pieces of legislation. One simply designated the HMUCP as a state urban cultural park and directed the state to plan a heritage trail to connect its industrial landmarks and assets. The other took the notion of a city or region as a park and directed the State Parks agency to prepare a plan for a statewide system of urban cultural parks. It was intended to promote preservation, education, recreation and economic development simultaneously through state-local and public-private partnerships. At the time, a planning effort was going on in Lowell, Massachusetts to develop a plan for Lowell to become a national urban cultural park. (It ended up as the Lowell National Historical Park within the National Park System.) Assemblyman Sullivan liked the idea but wondered how you could have a “park” when; for example, the urban cultural park community of Waterford had a McDonalds in it.

The executives in the state park agency were not happy about the urban cultural park legislation. A Deputy Commissioner told me this was only a back door way for distressed communities to get the state to pick up basic municipal costs. For state park officials parks were public estates, some with scenic beauty and others with golf courses, swimming pools and campgrounds. Unlike The New Yorker magazine that did a “Talk of the Town” on the NY Harbor urban cultural park, they could not see how the conditions traditionally associated with parks could be found in urban settings. They much preferred going out and about the state visiting state parks and taking their golf clubs.

Those in the State Parks Agency were perplexed. They didn’t know which of the two urban cultural parks was worst for them from their narrow perspective. If the HMUCP bill passed, they feared it would become the care taker for distressed cities. Yet, the thought of a statewide system of urban cultural parks might be even a greater threat to their peace of mind and golf outings.

At one point during the legislative session a group of State Park Executives including Fred Rath, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, asked to meet with the legislators sponsoring the urban cultural park bills. Meet they did.

Mr. Rath started the conversation by almost poetically saying the urban cultural park notion would be the highest realization of the historic preservation ideal. It would go beyond individual features and even historic districts and encompass the entire narrative of communities and regions. The legislators were impressed. They had hit upon something more significant than they ever imagined.

But then Mr. Rath lowered the boom by declaring there was absolutely no way the state parks agency would be able to administer a program of the magnitude of urban cultural parks. Yes, Deputy Commissioner Al Caccese affirmed that is so.

It was too late for the state parks leadership. The cat was out of the bag and there was no way the legislators would be deterred from passing the urban cultural park legislation after hearing Rath extol the urban cultural park idea. Both urban cultural park bills were passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Hugh Carey.

The state parks agency never had much enthusiasm for urban cultural parks, but doing nothing was not an option. It hired Lane and Frenchman consultants who worked on the City of Lowell urban cultural park and were able to generate interest in many communities in New York.

Outreach to communities across the state from New York City to villages like Sackets Harbor along Lake Ontario and a pilot grant program led to 13 communities doing feasibility studies on their qualifications to become part of a statewide urban cultural park system. A plan for the UCP System was published. Implementing legislation led in large part to enthusiasm of state legislators like Assemblymen Sullivan, Maurice Hinchey and Oliver Koppell was enacted in 1982 and 13 communities including the HMUCP went through the arduous process of preparing their management plans that the state park agency adopted. A driver for the UCPs came in 1986 when Assembly Hinchey got $20 million dollars in the a state environmental quality bond act to be used to pay 100% of the cost of visitor centers in each of the then 14 UCPs.

On the national scene, regional national heritage areas took off in the 1980s. They were established on the basis of individual Congressional legislation and were under the wing of the National Park Service. But they were at best treated as orphans and not fully accepted into the National Park System. The National Park System and the NYS parks agency had something in common in their arms length approach to heritage areas. Yet, one can say that National Heritage Areas thrived, there being 49 National Heritage Areas, which includes 4 in New York State.

The leadership of the state parks agency was never happy with urban cultural parks aka heritage areas and 33 years later with the state having a comprehensive urban cultural park aka heritage area law on the books, 20 state designated heritage areas and 4 National Heritage Areas in existence, the state parks’ executives including the retired Spitzer appointed Commissioner Carol Ash and her successor Acting Commissioner Andy Beers washed their hands of heritage areas without consulting with their state and local heritage area partners or the state legislature. Their excuse was that they couldn’t afford to participate, even though participation was essentially only the part time services of two state employees.

State-local partnership was never appreciated by the State Parks agency. Perhaps in their indifferent approach to heritage areas and a new type of park lies a reason the traditional state park system is so ripe for being picked apart during a recession like the recent one by the Executive branch.

Additional articles:

http://braypapers.com/riverspark.html

http://braypapers.com/heritage.html (The heritage area phenomena)

http://braypapers.com/parks804.html (Evolving policies and laws for governance of urban protected areas: New York State’s Landmark Heritage Area System, Ane Books, New Dehli, India, 2003. Paul M. Bray)

http://braypapers.com/PP.html (The possibility of parks unbounded)

 

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