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Partnering to Promote Heritage Tourism in Local Communities: Guidance for Federal AgenciesarrowLinks to Innovative Initiatives and Success Stories

Links to

Innovative Initiatives and Success Stories

Federal Land Management Agencies

Federal Assistance Agencies

Federal Land Management Agencies


The Forest Service, Corps of Engineers, and Interior Department agencies are signatories to Memoranda of Understanding with the Western States Tourism Policy Council and the Southeast Tourism Policy Council.

Federal land managing agencies are also among the participants in the California Cultural and Heritage Tourism Council and the Montana Tourism and Recreation Initiative.

Bureau of Land Management
BLM has launched its Adventures in the Past Web site to help promote public education about, awareness of, and involvement in the protection of BLM heritage assets. Tourism, volunteerism, and continuing education focusing on BLM heritage assets are the key focuses. In its “Featured Adventure Sites,” BLM is providing links to chambers of commerce or tourism bureaus of nearby local communities.

Through its Undaunted Stewardship Program, BLM is working with Montana ranchers to improve the environmental quality and economic productivity of their land, while also preserving and interpreting historic sites and landscapes, particularly those associated with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Ranchers receive financial and technical assistance to develop and implement grazing management plans. Ranches with historic sites can enter into Historical Site Preservation Agreements, where they agree to protect the sites and provide opportunities for the public to visit them. Large-scale interpretive displays are being placed at ranches with agreements. Ranches can also receive assistance in developing tourist-oriented alternate enterprises, such as bed-and-breakfasts, campgrounds, and other recreation enterprises. In implementing the program, BLM partners with Montana State University, and the Montana Stockgrowers Association, and is assisted by a guidance council of conservation groups, agricultural organizations and governmental agencies.

Department of Defense

DoD has developed a guidebook and series of maps that highlight former and active military sites with heritage resources open to the public. In addition to informing the public about historic properties they can visit on active military reservations, this material links these properties thematically to non-DoD-owned properties.

Forest Service

The Forest Service’s Rural Community Assistance programs help rural communities build skills, networks, and strategies to address social, environmental, and economic changes. The grants and other assistance available through these programs have been used to foster heritage tourism and historic preservation. For example, a Rural Community Assistance Grant from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests helped the communities of Eagar and Springerville, Arizona, develop the “Pistols, Plows, and Petticoats” driving tours to historic sites. Grant funds also helped to rehabilitate the Newberry Opera House (1882) in Newberry, South Carolina, which has been a major catalyst for heritage tourism in the community.

The Partnership Resource Center, developed by the National Forest Foundation and the Forest Service, provides guidance and case studies on forging partnerships to help improve both forest ecosystems and communities.

One example of the Forest Service co-locating in a local visitor center is the Williams Visitor Center, which is jointly operated by the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce and the Kaibab National Forest. The building, located in downtown Williams, was originally built in 1901 as a Santa Fe Railway depot. In another example, staff from the Santa Fe National Forest man an information booth at Jemez Pueblo’s Walatowa Visitor Center, since many of the Pueblo's ancestral lands are located within the national forest.

General Services Administration
As part of GSA’s program to lease underutilized historic buildings, several notable public buildings have been converted to tourism related uses, thus bolstering local economies. The New Orleans Customs House will soon house the Audubon Insectarium. The National Museum of the American Indian's Heye Center is located in New York’s Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. The General Post Office in Washington, D.C., is now a luxury hotel.

As a result of Section 106 review of the development of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, GSA agreed to develop an exhibit on the history of Rich’s Department Store, which would be adversely affected by the project. The exhibit, which has been installed in the old department store windows, was produced as a joint effort between GSA, the Heritage Preservation Masters program at Georgia State University, and the Atlanta History Center. The exhibit received the National Council on Public History's Student Project of the Year Award.

As a result of Section 106 review of construction of the Ted Weiss Federal Building in New York City, extensive mitigation was developed to respond to adverse effects to the 17th- and 18th-century African Burial Ground. Included in the mitigation was development of a memorial and interpretive center. While these resources are designed principally to honor those individuals buried at the site, they will also be an important heritage tourism destination for interpreting African-American culture.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve is creating the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, a 20,000-square-foot facility in Alpena, Michigan, that will preserve and highlight the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes and the shipwrecks of Michigan's Thunder Bay. Not only will the facility be a heritage tourism draw, NOAA worked closely with the local community to maximize the effectiveness of its citing. The Maritime Center will be a cornerstone of a larger public-private redevelopment of an historic paper mill complex, which will also include a conference center and paper-making museum.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve also assisted the City of Alpena, Michigan, in preparing its application for designation as a Preserve America Community. Designation provides national recognition for communities that are promoting heritage tourism and economic development through historic preservation. 

NOAA has partnered with the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, to create the USS Monitor Center. The new wing of the museum will house and interpret artifacts from the USS Monitor, the famous ironclad warship from the Civil War. It is anticipated to be one of the premier Civil War tourism sites in the country.

In 1998, NOAA, working with federal, state, local and tribal partners, began restoration of the St. George Sealing Plant building on St. George Island, Alaska, the last one of its kind still in existence. In 2005, NOAA awarded a Preserve America Initiative Grant to fund development of interpretive displays and videos that will help to develop the sealing plant’s heritage tourism potential.

National Park Service

Stearns, Kentucky, is one of America's last remaining company built coal & lumber towns, and the McCreary County Heritage Foundation, Inc. is working towards the restoration and preservation of the entire town. Historically associated structures, such as the Blue Heron Mining Camp, are located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and NPS is partnering with the Heritage Foundation to preserve, interpret, and promote the area’s resources. Stearns and the Blue Heron Mining Camp are linked by the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, and NPS recently initiated repairs at Blue Heron to improve the visitor experience. NPS has also relocated its visitor center to the Big South Fork Scenic Railway depot in Stearns.

To commemorate the Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, NPS created the Corps of Discovery II traveling exhibit. The exhibit visits communities across 18 states and the District of Columbia, places integral to preparation for as well as the trail traveled by the historic Corps of Volunteers for Northwestern Discovery. The exhibit provides a heritage tourism focal point that supplements local observances of the Bicentennial.
Under a technical assistance agreement between the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the City of Canal Fulton, Ohio, the park assisted the City in development of a heritage tourism brochure, business recruitment packet, and a Web site. The park applied for and administered grants on behalf of the Canal Fulton Main Street Program and the Canal Fulton Historic Preservation Commission.

Mammoth Cave National Park has worked closely with surrounding communities on developing a heritage corridor along Kentucky State Routes 31W and 31E. The heritage corridor promotes heritage tourism to local communities along the corridor, Mammoth Cave National Park, and other nearby Federal lands.

NPS provided partial funding for the research, writing and publication of Routes to Roots, a 228-page travel guide of industrial and cultural heritage sites within the seven counties of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.

Tennessee Valley Authority

In 1986, as part of the Section 106 review process, TVA sought ways to mitigate the adverse effects of Tellico Reservoir inundating the Overhill Cherokee Indian towns along the lower Little Tennessee River. As part of mitigation package, TVA gave adjacent reservoir land to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and funded construction of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum on the tract. While this provided a vehicle for interpreting and celebrating the historic resources being impacted by the reservoir, it also has had important heritage tourism benefits. Although in a rather remote location, 15,000 tourists visited the Museum in calendar year 2004.

Federal Assistance Agencies


The Federal Highway Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are among the signatories to Memoranda of Understanding with the Western States Tourism Policy Council and the Southeast Tourism Policy Council.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD has published a booklet, Preserving America, Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism in Housing and Community Development. Subtitled A Guide to Using Community Development Block Grant Funds for Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism in Your Communities, the publication explains how eligible CDBG activities can support heritage tourism. It includes case studies from Pharr, Texas; Kissimmee, Florida; and Galion, Ohio.

Department of Transportation
DOT has developed a Preserve America Web site that features success stories in heritage tourism and historic preservation. Projects are highlighted that have been supported by the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and the Maritime Administration.

Economic Development Administration
The U.S. Secretary of Commerce has directed EDA to support and promote Preserve America projects as potential investment opportunities. In one example, EDA provided $1 million to the Santa Fe Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission to help rebuild the historic steam locomotives for a narrow gauge railroad that carries tourists through parts of Colorado and New Mexico.

Federal Highway Administration

Both the Transportation Enhancements Program and the National Scenic Byways Program have funded many projects supporting heritage tourism. To help ensure that this trend continues and expands, then Division Administrator Mary Peters issued a memorandum in 2004 encouraging field staff to take advantage of opportunities to use both of those programs to support heritage tourism and historic preservation. She also urged that special consideration be given to projects that advance the heritage tourism and preservation goals of Preserve America Communities.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Through the Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program, USDA is assisting local RC&D Councils to plan and execute projects for resource conservation and community development. Recently, the Old Dominion RC&D Council assisted in the development of the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail, the first historic trail dedicated to commemorating the civil rights. The trail is Virginia’s newest historic tourism destination and will drive economic development in Virginia.

USDA Rural Development

In its Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program, the USDA Rural Development gave priority consideration in 2005 to applications from Preserve America Communities. The program’s flexibility allows funding for projects that revitalize rural economies, such interpretative centers, museums or restored historical buildings. An example of such a project is rehabilitation of the Franklin Museum in New Athens, Ohio, a building associated with the Underground Railroad.

Updated March 13, 2006

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