Three evaluations of National Heritage Areas have been submitted to Congress by the National Park Service. The evaluations assessed the impacts, outcomes, and organizational sustainability of the coordinating entities for Augusta Canal, Essex, and Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Areas which were designated by Congress in 1996.
Augusta Canal National Heritage Area: The Power of Water
Augusta Canal National Heritage Area is Going Green with Hydroelectric power at National Landmark Mills while Following the Flow to provide historic replica canal boats for all ages.
The 11-mile Augusta Canal, once called the Savannah River’s “brightest arm,” was seriously deteriorated by late in the last century and officials considered draining it for a highway. But in 1989, the Augusta Canal Authority worked with city and state officials to develop a plan to restore the canal’s historic mills, put the head gates and locks in working order, capitalize on the setting with trails and boat tours, and provide educational opportunities. Leaders created a vision for Augusta’s future by looking to the past and sought the national heritage area designation.
Today, because of the work of the Augusta Canal Authority, a levee walling off the Savannah River is a great park, the towpath is a hub of recreation, and the Enterprise Mill is transformed into apartments, offices, and the former “spooling room”—where women once produced some of the South’s finest textiles—houses a museum, working loom, theater, and visitor center. Reactivated 1920s-era generators, powered by the canal, provide electricity.
The canal, a catalyst for the South’s industrial revolution, is again vital, the prime supply of drinking water, flood-control, and hydroelectric power. When the previous owners of King Mill closed in 2001 putting over 300 people out of work, the Authority bought the mill, leased it to Ohio’s Standard Textile which rehired many of the workers. The hydro plants not only bring a legacy to life, but provide a funding toward preservation and interpretive activities by selling surplus power to Georgia Power.
The NPS National Heritage Area designation supports the renewal and NPS funding has been a critical piece of the revitalization. Over a 12-year period, the Augusta Canal Authority matched the $5 million federal investment with $21 million in local investment including an $8 million local bond, a special local sales tax, lease revenue, boat tours, visitor center revenue, and grants for public projects.
To read more about the evaluation and Augusta Canal National Heritage Area visit:
Essex National Heritage Area: A Class Act in Essex
Essex National Heritage Area is at the forefront of New England’s surge as a destination. Newburyport, a stop along the new Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, had its heyday in the age of sail, but as the city’s fortunes faded—its waterfront rife with weeds and junk—a plan was floated to bulldoze much of downtown in favor of strip malls and parking. Instead, residents held fast to their heritage. Today, block after block of restored buildings, once boarded up and derelict, greet travelers. The sense of possibility—epitomized by a downtown alive with shoppers and strollers—draws new residents, too.
Their success is routed in partnership. Essex NHA and two national parks, Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, are showing students what is in their own backyards. They take this message to schools developing curricula, sponsoring youth jobs with Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works, and programs such as Making the Caribbean Connection. Students meet at The House of Seven Gables to learn, in Spanish, stories between the Caribbean and Salem which have interacted for centuries.
Essex is often able to tap resources that others cannot because of their connections to community leaders, stakeholders, and volunteers. Over a 12-year period, Essex more than doubled its federal investment. When combined with the match grown from the federal seed, this adds up to nearly $30million invested in local economies.
To read more about the evaluation and Essex National Heritage Area visit:
Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area: America’s Agricultural Story
Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, encompassing two-thirds of Iowa’s population, meets its goals with a mix of grants, assistance, educational development, and awareness building, a key goal instilling a preservation ethic among kids by getting them to sites with school transportation grants. Over a hundred partner sites join hands in carrying out the mission—like the Seed Savers Exchange. Kids are immersed in a host of transformative experiences and Camp Silos on-line programs. The intent is not just preserving a place, but a way of life.
The region’s sense of place is grounded in some of the world’s most fertile soil, the “black gold” once blanketed with tall grass. In the mid-1800s, John Deere’s steel plow, slicing through this mantle, transformed it into a breadbasket almost overnight. Following the shift toward agribusiness there was a decline in family farming. In 1991, the Kitchen Cabinet Group spearheaded the revitalization of Waterloo which spread to the creation of the national heritage area.
The heritage area model encourages private and public partners to pull together, often remedies the “separateness” of government agencies. What begins at the grassroots stays that way, with a sense of ownership that stirs residents, stakeholders, and officials alike. The evaluation points to how much communities value the pairing of assistance with grants. This is especially helpful in distressed rural places without the funds or expertise to bring it all together without support and training.
To read more about the evaluation and Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area visit: