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National Preserve America Summit a Success in New Orleans

New Orleans—Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States of America and Honorary Chair of Preserve America, led nearly 500 active participants through the Preserve America Summit Oct. 18-20, 2006 in New Orleans. Activities were centered around the historic U.S. Custom House, the Marriott New Orleans in the historic French Quarter, the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Old Ursuline Convent.

The Preserve America Summit coincided with the Oct. 15, 1966 passage of the landmark National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)—40 years ago—making October an appropriate time to bring together champions in the field of historic preservation to review America’s national preservation programs and propose improvements to modernize them.

Participants gathering at the Preserve America Summit’s first plenary session Oct. 19 were welcomed by Louisiana’s Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. Following Landrieu’s welcome, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Chairman John L. Nau, III, discussed the Preserve America initiative and the NHPA. Mrs. Bush then delivered the keynote address, followed by U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett, who discussed the purpose and goals of the Summit.

Bush, Nau, and Scarlett then presented three Achievement in Preservation Awards to three private sector organizations that have made major contributions to preservation over the years and especially to the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They were Shell Oil Company and Motiva Enterprises LLC, Marriott International Inc., and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The designation of three new Preserve America communities followed: Asheville, N.C., Baton Rouge, La., and Canton, Miss.

Four regional preservation projects that received 2006 Preserve America Grants were the morning’s final honorees. State and city officials from Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Bastrop, La. were on hand to receive the grants. Louisiana Rebirth received $150,000; Rebuilding Mississippi’s Heritage Tourism received $150,000; Marketing Historic Bastrop received $27,403; and Rural Heritage Development Arkansas received $100,000.

Over the past few weeks and months, 11 expert panels have been examining various aspects of the NHPA. They gathered in sessions at the Summit to further explore their ideas. The participants not only heard interesting discussions about the state of historic preservation but also played a key role in developing ideas on the future of preservation in America. These ideas will be reviewed by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and will be shared with President George W. Bush, the Congress, and other decision makers, as well as with the public in the coming months.

Mrs. Bush attended two of the panel sessions, actively participating in the discussions and engaging in discourse with the panelists. A youth summit also took place concurrently on Thursday, and Mrs. Bush met with the gathered middle- and high school students who were part of that event, as well.

On Oct. 20, 2006, participants gathered for a closing plenary session and saw and heard lively New Orleans music and a video recap of the past two days. They were treated to engaging comments from a variety of leaders in preservation including Lurita Doan, Administrator of the General Services Administration; David Sampson, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce; Anna Maria Farias, a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH); Bob Young, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Scarlett. Two high school students—Kaitlin Guerin and Jerry Reese—gave the report from the youth summit, and Nau and Scarlett reported on the findings of the 11 panels.

The state of New Orleans’ reconstruction after the hurricanes was the topic for the sobering lunchtime presentation from Donald Powell, of the office of the federal coordinator of Gulf Coast rebuilding in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As was heard throughout the Summit, much has been done, but much still needs to be done in the field of historic preservation as well as in the reconstruction of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

Posted October 24, 2006

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