Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA), recently attended the spring meeting of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas. The meeting was hosted by the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area in Alaska.
Leaders of various National Heritage Areas gathered at Our Lady of the Snows Chapel in Girdwood, Ala. to discuss advocacy, preservation, program development and promotion, and quality of life improvement opportunities for their respective regions. Major topics included effective partnerships for commemorating the National Park Service 2016 Centennial and the creation of a National Heritage Areas system through U.S. Congress.
“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area took the lead on commemorating the National Park Service Centennial during the 2015 Winning the Race Conference at Delta State,” said Herts. “The Delta Center and the MDNHA partnered with the conference and the National Park Service to sponsor an opening reception that welcomed over 200 guests from throughout the Mississippi Delta region and beyond.”
Learn more about the reception at http://www.deltastate.edu/news-and-events/mdnha-to-host-winning-the-race-reception.
During the Alaska meeting, Herts shared the importance of collaborating with National Park Service regional representatives to help stage impactful centennial programming.
The event featured remarks from former National Park Service director, Bob Stanton and Bill Justice, acting superintendent of Vicksburg National Military Park. The BB King All Stars Choir performed, a group that is comprised of musically talented youth from throughout the Mississippi Delta.
In keeping with the centennial’s goal of creating the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates, the MDNHA worked with Mayor Johnnie Thomas of Glendora, Miss. Through sponsorship from Eastern National, a not-for-profit cooperating association that supports the National Park Service, Thomas brought over 50 high school students from West Tallahatchie Consolidated School District to the reception. Tallahatchie County is one of the most impoverished in the Delta region, with over 90 percent of West Tallahatchie High School students coming from low income households.
While in Alaska, Herts also shared how the MDNHA has collaborated with the NPS and other Heritage Area representatives to conduct research that illuminates Mississippi’s status as a leading National Heritage Areas state. The Mississippi Delta, Hills and Gulf Coast National Heritage Areas combined cover nearly 60 percent of the state. Second only to Tennessee, Mississippi has the highest percentage of National Heritage Area designated land mass in the United States.
“It is important for our congressional representatives to know that Mississippi is a National Heritage Areas leader,” said Herts. “This makes the protection of our Heritage Areas a priority. It is in Mississippi’s best interest. Our Heritage Areas promote tourism, economic development,and broader understanding of the value of cultural heritage throughout our state.”
Alliance members also participated in experiential learning tours throughout the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. The tours highlighted rail and water transportation, natural landscapes and community histories. They also visited the Alaska Wildlife Education Center, where Brenda Barrett, editor of Living Landscape Observer and former national coordinator for Heritage Areas with the NPS, presented on opportunities to connect with landscape conservation efforts nationwide.
The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is a membership organization of the congressionally designated National Heritage Areas committed to raising awareness among the administration, Congress, its partners and the public, of the benefits of National Heritage Areas to the public sector and private citizens and fostering educational opportunities and partnerships among organizations in the heritage development field. For more information, visit http://www.nationalheritageareas.us/index.html.