Via the Heritage Initiative, a St. Croix 360 partner:
The St. Croix Valley Foundation is pleased to announce that the Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NWRPC) has been selected to serve as the Coordinating Entity for a proposed National Heritage Area in the St. Croix River region of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The NWRPC is a multi-county venture formed in 1959 and operating in 10 counties and five tribal nations of northwestern Wisconsin. As the Coordinating Entity of a possible National Heritage Area (NHA), the NWRPC will work with local partners to create and implement a long-range plan for a Heritage Area.
“NWRPC has the credibility, experience and relationship-building skills needed to ensure a successful community effort,” said Jill Shannon, Director of Community Partnerships at the Foundation, which has facilitated the Heritage Initiative to this point. “This experience will strengthen our region’s reputation nationally and internationally as a National Heritage Area.”
The selection of a future Coordinating Entity is a key milestone in the process to seek designation of the region as a National Heritage Area. The St. Croix Valley Foundation is now finalizing a written Feasibility Study and its public review, which will happen in early 2014. NWRPC is assisting that process and will take the reins when completed.
“With a region so rich in heritage resources and values, there are a lot of people, businesses and organizations involved in heritage activities,” said Myron Schuster, NWRPC executive director. “We look forward to reinforcing these local efforts in a coordinated fashion, and seamlessly melding these efforts under the umbrella of a future National Heritage Area.
As Coordinating Entity, NWRPC’s job will be to bring voluntary partners together to plan and implement regional projects that will create a climate of sustainable economic development built on the region’s shared heritage and natural resources. It will also create awareness and interest in the region’s culture and heritage among residents and tourists by working with its local partners.
“NWRPC has been a leader in our region for almost 55 years,” said Marty Harding, chair of the Heritage Initiative task force. “With a strong focus on economic development, they are well-positioned to support small business growth, while also increasing the understanding of our region’s special historic, natural and recreational qualities to visitors and residents..”
The Heritage Initiative task force, made up of volunteer members throughout the region, has been leading a public engagement process for the past two years to determine if there is regional support for heritage area designation. This process included three rounds of public meetings, to collect stories, identify historic, cultural and natural resources and consult with experts to verify the region’s national significance. At the Heritage Summit in May of 2013, participants gave enthusiastic support for future designation. Completing a written Feasibility Study and selecting a coordinating entity were the next steps coming out of that gathering..
There are currently 49 National Heritage Areas in the United States, though there are none in either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Heritage Areas celebrate places with important connections to our country’s culture and history.