First Annual National Park Service Historic Preservation Conference
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Dave Clary

Mr. David A. Clary discussed the Historic Resources Management Plan. He said that it bears emphasis that we have two disparate classes of resources in the Park System, natural and historic. Each requires its own specialized management approach founded on wholly separate principles and methods. What is proper for a dynamic natural process can be disastrous if applied to static historic fabric. The converse is likewise true.

Historic resources management is not planning, or development, or the assignment of treatments or interpretive concepts to historic resources. Rather, it is the continuing, daily application of preservation principles and methods to insure the preservation of the historic resources. In large measure, this means maintenance. The HRMP is intended to lay out in a convenient volume the entire continuing program of a park to preserve - not alter - its historic resources. A HRMP that ignored the nuts and bolts of preservation maintenance in favor of saying this house ought to be restored and that one ought to be interpreted would not be a HRMP, but more of a master plan or interpretive prospectus. Clary pointed out that a fact that is seldom understood is that historic resources includes the entirety of Class VI lands. The trees, rocks, waters, etc. on Class VI land may be natural in form, but they are historic resources requiring management according to their role in preserving the historic scene.

None of this counters the need to involve all appropriate disciplines in the preparation of a HRMP - including particularly maintenance personnel, as well as historical architects, archeologists, natural scientists, landscape architects, and historians. That most of the limited number of HRMPs thus far attempted have failed is because they did not represent the full range of input, and accordingly failed to address the very subjects the HRMP was created for - the preservation of resources in their condition at the time of the plan's formulation.

Clary recounted the history of the HRMP since 1970. He noted that if he were to review the Ft. Davis NHS HRMP, which he authored, he would probably reject it today because it does not emphasize enough the most important details of preservation. Its saving grace, he noted, was that it calls for the completion of Historic Structure Preservation Guides for all the structures, which would provide the needed information. He would in retrospect take quite a different approach in dealing with vegetative cover in that HRMP, and involve more intensively natural scientists who would be asked to help in developing methods that would achieve and maintain the desired condition for the historic scene. It bears reiteration that the naturalists must conform their solutions for the natural features of Class VI land to the goals established by historic preservation. There is danger in their assuming that the trees and grass can freely be treated as they would in a natural area. Nonetheless, the Service's natural scientists have become increasingly sophisticated in dealing with resources, and can be of great assistance in historic preservation.

The Service's shortcomings in historic preservation, taken at large, arise because of insufficient recognition of the need for unglamorous routine. We could live very well without restorations, but without adequate maintenance our structures can - and have, in many cases - go to pieces. The HRMP is the ideal mechanism for organizing all the management requirements of a park's historic resources. It insures continuity as personnel change. It guarantees that the proper materials and methods will be followed. It sets forth for the Superintendent his fiscal and manpower requirements if he is to do his job, enabling him to more effectively prepare - and justify - 10-237s and 10-238s. It places him on notice as to his chief responsibilities, and allows for more effective operations evaluation. Finally, the HRMP lays out in one package the entire management program of the park over the long term, facilitating Section 106 compliance regarding management, and obviating the need for Section 106 on cyclic maintenance and repair projects.

Where does the program stand? Next to nowhere. There is still only one HRMP approved that is regarded as complete (Ft. Davis). One other was approved on the explicit understanding of park, region, and WASO that it was incomplete and required the incorporation of the maintenance data that should constitute its heart. Several others have been attempted, with no success. But there may be a ray of hope, because the renewed emphasis on this, together with the staffing of historic preservationists in the regions recently, means that a great number of HRMPs have been begun in the past year. With any luck, in a period of years, we may have them, provided that we do not fall into the same traps as before.

What have been the traps that account for a near-zero record after nearly five years? Causes have been many. Despite the availability of guidelines for four years, there is still widespread confusion over whether a HRMP exists, what it should be, or whether there is such a thing as a "Resource Management Plan" directed at all resources. There is a continuing erroneous assumption around the Service that the natural sciences have a monopoly on "resources," and that all resources should be managed according to their own principles. We have made concerted efforts at communication, however, and it can be hoped that this has been resolved. It should be pointed out, however, that at no time did this conflict originate in the professional services in WASO, where the Chief Scientist and staff have worked closely with Park Historic Preservation for years in preparing guidelines for both management plans and explaining their distinction.

Historic preservationists have fallen short. Granted, they have not long been present in most regional offices. But within the last year, when the issues of natural and historic resources management plans have gained currency, regional historic preservationists have not always pushed their own cause as aggressively as might have been expected.

Management commitment to resources management planning has been a late blooming thing. But where in the past HRMPs have been requested, necessity caused their assignment to DSC, with less than inspiring results. The Service Center has tended to assign only historians to HRMPs - and often the historians who were newest to the job and least familiar with the system and its resources. The historians have not been eager to deal substantively with the resources as opposed to themes, and are often hesitant to touch subjects like paints, mortars, schedules, and materials. They have not consulted enough with other disciplines, and particularly with the park maintenance personnel. In this they may have faced a few superintendents who did not wish such contact; it is hard to say.

The opportunity exists now to set things right, and we had better grab it. The HRMP is the single most important thing we can do to serve the historic resources of the System. As historic preservationists we should recognize that and get to work. I'll close with a remark to my fellow historians. Our role in the HRMP is crucial, for ordinarily we shall be called upon to co-ordinate the efforts of the many who must compile the HRMP. In school we were taught to stick to the library, propound theses, and write scholarly articles. Here, we must get our hands dirty, for the historic resources are what justified our employment. We have many historians in the Service who are historians, but not enough historians who are historic preservationists. If we cannot learn to love mud, mortar, and nails, if we let rickety old houses fall down, who will need us?

The discussion period, following Mr. Clary's talk, clearly showed that there is a great deal of confusion about HRMP. Who should prepare it? What information it should have? What is its purpose? The answers to these questions were not too clear. There is no doubt that the HRMP is hard to do, requires a lot of effort, and we do not have enough competent people to do it. Dave Battle pointed out that the main problem is that we do not have the basic research and technique for dealing with the maintenance of historic structures, which is the primary use of the HRMP. To make matters worse, the guidelines for the preparation of the HRMP are not adequate, but no attempt has been made to revise them.

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Last Updated: 14-Jul-2009