After an extensive, two-year planning process, five alternatives were identified as possible options of action for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. These alternatives differed in the emphasis of the activity that the heritage area would engage in, and were measured by a rubric that balanced the themes and mission of the heritage area, the likelihood of projected outcomes and the varied interests of stakeholders involved.
These alternatives were:
- Alternative A – No action
- Alternative B – Tell the Delta’s Story
- Alternative C – Build the Network
- Alternative D – Save Places, Perpetuate Culture
- Alternative E – A Blend: Partner to Save Places, Build the Network, Perpetuate Culture and Tell the Delta’s Story
The fifth alternative, Alternative E, is a hybrid of the Alternatives B, C and D, and is the selected alternative for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area to undertake. The elements of this alternative will guide the criteria for the heritage area’s strategy selection and development.
Alternative E - A Blend:
Partner to save places, build the network, perpetuate culture and tell the Delta's story
Alternative E would blend elements of B, C and D to build a strong network of partners and create a climate of sustainable economic development based on the Delta’s heritage and culture. The coordinating entity would work with partners to document stories and resources including the built environment (historic structures), landscape (natural resources), culture (living traditions), heritage attractions, collections, etc.; save, revitalize and perpetuate resources through training, advocacy and direct action; tell the story through these resources with new interpretation and educational resources. Increase awareness, interest and support in the Delta’s heritage and culture by residents and visitors. The coordinating entity would be positioned as a convener, leader and advocate for saving places, perpetuating culture and telling the Delta’s story.
The alternative can be articulated in three separate sections:
1. Perpetuate Culture and Tell the Story
To experience the Mississippi Delta is to embrace the region in all of its complexity. Observations about the Mississippi Delta often reflect the region’s unique mix of culture, nature and heritage. This section explores current efforts and new opportunities to perpetuate living traditions, to document historic events and to develop a variety of interpretive resources to preserve and share these stories. It identifies key audiences – tourists, residents and students – and explores methods to attract and engage these audiences.
2. Save Delta’s Historic Resources
Historic resources in the Delta create the power of place. While various aspects of the Delta culture may be portable, it is important to know that this culture comes from a specific place and a combination of these factors cannot be replicated. This section focuses on the intention of the coordinating entity to work with partners to save historic resources throughout the heritage area.
3. Build the Network
The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area encompasses a large geographic area of 18 counties and a population of more than 550,000 people. Although it has a rich culture and heritage, the Mississippi Delta faces numerous challenges in economic development, education and other areas. This section focuses on the building and sustaining of a strong network of active partnerships, and discusses a variety of ways that a network of partners will be built by the coordinating entity.
Some activities that this alternative could encompass are:
- Increase awareness of the importance of preserving historic resources through publicity campaigns, documentation of best practices and awards programs
- Advocate for historic preservation by working with towns, counties, state agencies and organizations
- Encourage stewardship of natural resources by working with towns, counties, state agencies and organizations
- Document and publicize threatened resources
- Serve as a clearinghouse for activities related to preserving historic, cultural and natural resources and provide connections for support
- Provide support for preservation through surveys, workshops and symposia
- Create an identity for the heritage area that conveys a clear and consistent message
- Document and publicize the economic value of investment in heritage preservation and in heritage tourism
- Communicate regularly with elected officials and other influential partners about the goals and achievements of heritage area partners
- Provide recognition for excellence in preserving, interpreting and promoting the Delta’s culture and heritage
- Regularly convene partners to address issues of preservation, tourism and other topics. Form committees to address issues as needed
- Provide a forum to address issues of race, economics and history
- Serve as a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities with partner organizations and the heritage area’s management entity