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The Preserve America Community Agent position in Arkansas was created by a Preserve America Grant. This position promotes historic preservation and heritage tourism as economic redevelopment and community revitalization tools that will encourage new programs throughout the state. This is a connection that has not been made in many communities around the United States; the further development of this program could create a nationwide network of professionals to promote Preserve America, and in turn, create jobs and revenue in the heritage tourism field.
The Preserve America Grant program has created partnerships in communities and regions between organizations that may not otherwise have had an opportunity or reason to work together. This has increased communication and the opportunity for future projects and partnerships. The Preserve America program as a whole has been a catalyst for local preservation action. The community agent has been able to meet with citizens in smaller communities to discuss resources available to help with local preservation action and education. The designation process and the state level benefits that have been developed through the Preserve America Community Agent program in Arkansas have encouraged more local preservation action from communities...
One recommendation of the 2006 Preserve America Summit was to “provide more technical assistance to local communities to promote historic preservation and heritage tourism, and explore the concept of a Preserve America Community Agent.” The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program created such a position, in partnership with the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, through a Preserve America Grant. This grant now provides local communities in Arkansas with a valuable resource person to assist with their heritage tourism and preservation activities.
Since the fall of 2008, Preserve America Community Agent Rhea Roberts has advised and developed relationships with more than 50 communities throughout the state; given more than 20 public presentations; written articles for the quarterly Arkansas Preservation Digest and distributed a monthly e-newsletter; hosted a statewide meeting with 30 Preserve America Community stakeholders in conjunction with the annual Arkansas Preservation Conference; and assisted with implementation of Preserve America Grant projects throughout the state. She has also developed plans for outreach to travel writers, encouraging a focus on Preserve America Communities, and has helped increase the number of designated Preserve America Communities in Arkansas. Since the creation of the agent position, there have been 10 additional Preserve America designation applications from Arkansas communities.
Recommendations from the statewide gathering of Preserve America Communities in May 2009 included increasing collaboration with local convention and visitors' bureaus; encouraging cities and local partners to use the Preserve America logo on their Web sites; and urging the community agent to continue to develop relationships with regional tourism associations. As an example of the latter idea, the community agent has been working with the eight counties of north central Arkansas that are members of the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council to increase the number of Preserve America Communities in the region (currently one town and one county, with other designations pending) and to develop scenic driving tours that highlight these communities and their cultural heritage. Ultimately, maps and information will be available in the Tourist Council's visitor's guide and at tourism and visitor's centers across the state.
The Preserve America Community Agent assists local communities on a variety of levels, including hands-on help with community designation applications, grant applications, and project planning. In Hot Springs, the Preserve America Community Agent facilitated a relationship between the city staff and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. This led to a rural tourism assessment, hospitality training, and expanded Hot Springs tourism listings on the Arkansas tourism Web site. The community agent worked with stakeholders in Tyronza and the nearby town of Dyess on their Preserve America Community application.
Updated July 1, 2009