Essex National Heritage Area receives Kudos

Essex National Heritage Area and regional National Park Service entities ”function in nearly seamless harmony’

Essex Heritage (The Essex National Heritage Commission), in its tradition of celebrating our region’s unique cultural heritage, announced the release of the report of the National Parks Second Century Commission: ‘Advancing The National Park Idea’. The findings urge specific actions by the President, Congress and National Park Service to celebrate the strengths and address the challenges facing the National Park Service (NPS) in advance of its 2016 Centennial. Among the recommendations, The Second Century Commission’s report favored the inclusion of the National Heritage Area model as part of long-range strategy, with secure base funding, to advance the National Park Service mission of education, heritage preservation and resource stewardship in the next century
In 2008, the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association convened a 26 member independent commission and charged the diverse group with developing a 21st century vision for the National Park Service and for the magnificent collection of unique places it holds in trust for the American people. The group met in 5 National park settings, including Yellowstone National Park, Gettysburg National Military Park and chose one urban park unit, the Lowell (MA) National Historic Park and one National Heritage Area , the Essex National Heritage Area, MA. During its listening sessions, the Committee heard from conservation and preservation experts, NPS field staff, teachers, volunteers and all groups that work in partnership or support of the Parks and listened to the ideas and priorities of concerned citizens.
Local advocates urged the Committee to appreciate the significance of the public-private partnerships that have developed with the designation of the Essex National Heritage Area, and to support the Heritage Area model for extending the NPS ethic that embraces the preservation of nature and our shared heritage, and promotes regard for their significance inside the parks and throughout the country.
Cited in one section titled, ‘The Future Shape of the National Park System’, the Committee Report group recommended that ‘National Heritage Areas should be recognized by Congress, the public and the National Park Service as a valued component of the nation’s strategy for conserving important resources and landscapes. The National Park Service provides leadership and support for designated national heritage areas, and encourages local initiatives to apply this concept as part of a national network that sustains national parks as well as areas of state, regional, and local importance.’
‘As the Commission saw in its meeting at Lowell National Historical Park and Essex National Heritage Area, things work best when there is virtually no distinction between parks and programs.’
Annie C. Harris, Executive Director of the Essex National Heritage Commission participated on a press teleconference with the newly appointed Director of the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis to announce the report details. Ms. Harris shared enthusiastic support for the Second Century Commission’s findings. ‘We were extremely pleased that the Commission chose to reference the synergy between the Essex National Heritage Commission and the Salem and Saugus National Historic Sites within the Heritage Area. We have established a successful foundation and are working to broaden our joint programs and public outreach efforts beyond the boundaries of the National Park sites. The Heritage Area allows us the latitude to extend the NPS ethic into every community of Essex County, encouraging historic, cultural and natural resource appreciation and stewardship.’
The report concludes ‘The current reality is that there are few remaining large tracts from which parks of the old model might be created’. Government action to purchase such tracts, and even private philanthropic purchase, often meets powerful resistance from individual owners and from property rights organizations. In the meantime, the country’s need for additional parks and preserved areas continues to grow. If the National Park Service is to create the future the nation requires of it, the institutional culture must embrace this current reality.’
‘The Commission has seen the current reality function at a near-optimum level in its meeting at Lowell National Historical Park, the Essex National Heritage Area, and Salem Maritime National Historic Site, where two units of the National Park System; a National Heritage Area; National Historic Landmarks; National Register of Historic Places; Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance; and state, local, and private sector entities interested in cultural resources, natural resources, scenic beauty, recreation, education, and economic development function in nearly seamless harmony.’

Patricia S. Trap, NPS Superintendent of the Salem Maritime National Historic Ste and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site was also a participant and host for the commission while in Essex. ‘The Heritage Area concept, as we’ve grown it here in Essex County, has increased citizen appreciation and engagement at the grass roots level. Its flexible structure will allow it to support the future initiatives of the Park Service. Together we can be community builders, catalysts in educating the public and future generations committed to a sustainable world,’ she commented.

In its closing recommendations, the Committee spoke specifically to the future of Heritage Areas and requested of Congress that National Heritage Areas are designated and managed in a rationally-planned, creatively flexible, systematic and statutorily-guided manner.’ Further it recommended ‘It is essential to fund National Heritage Areas to a level that will allow them to carry out their work. Otherwise the hope