The long process of trying to receive national recognition for the 8,000-square mile St. Croix River watershed has recently moved forward.
Local volunteers have been preparing a proposal for the region for almost 10 years. Mary Divine in the Pioneer Press recently reported on the latest developments:
A renewed push to have the St. Croix River region become a National Heritage Area is underway.
Earlier this month, officials from the National Park Service, which oversees the National Heritage Area program, signed off on the North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix National Heritage Area’s feasibility study after determining that the plan meets all the necessary criteria.
The designation of the North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix National Heritage Area, which still requires congressional approval, would help protect and improve the area’s natural, cultural and historic resources, said Marty Harding, board chairwoman. It also would boost tourism and bring in federal money, she said.
There are currently 55 NHAs nationwide, including Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canal Way in Ohio, the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York, Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in North Carolina and the Kenai Mountains in Alaska. The North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix National Heritage Area would be the first NHA in Minnesota and Wisconsin.– St. Croix River region closer to being named National Heritage Area, Pioneer Press
Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin has drafted legislation to designate the St. Croix National Heritage Area, and hopes it will receive a hearing this spring.
The North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix National Heritage Area seeks to celebrate the region’s history and culture, including Native Americans, fur-trading, logging, and natural resource conservation.
“Travel within the Heritage Area provides opportunities to experience small historical communities and reignite your interest in a past where abundant wildlife and white pine forests fueled the fur trade and lumber industry for nearly 300 years – followed by dramatic migrations of people from the Atlantic Coast and immigrants from throughout Europe,” the group says.
National Heritage Areas are managed locally but receive about $300,000 a year from the National Park Service, which must be matched with local funding. They do not include regulations or restrictions to prevent development or protect the environment.