First Annual National Park Service Historic Preservation Conference
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Jim Coleman

Perhaps the fact that there are many people here that I do not know is of significance because it shows or demonstrates the emphasis which has been placed on historic preservation.

I can only speak of my experience with this subject and with the role of the Denver Service Center. I am certain other superintendents have had varying experiences and may view their relationships with Denver in a different light.

It is my understanding that to some degree and under various circumstances the Denver Service Center becomes involved in three different phases of historic preservation which include emergency repairs, preventive maintenance and major rehabilitations - the latter to range from restoration to reconstructions.

Within these three phases of historic preservation work are three different types of services provided: Archeology, Historic Architecture and History Studies.

I gather that one of the basic reasons for this discussion is to asses the relative merits of the location of these responsibilities in Denver at the Service Center. Again, I can only comment on experiences with which I am familiar and it may that my understanding is not reflective of the servicewide role played by Denver.

In the field of archeology, the basic service provided by Denver has been contracting - that is writing the specs, putting the contract out for bids, and even negotiating with the archeologist. Our experience here has been almost the reverse of the other two type of services, in that we have received some very fine assistance for some emergency work, where as the work for getting out contracts for programmed projects was very slow and had disastrous results.

Some of our recent archeological contracts were drafted by people who were not familiar with the site and the result was we went through a seemingly endless series of telephone calls trying to iron out the exact wording of the contract before it was resolved. It would seem to us that an important consideration is how well does the contractor know the archeologists in the area; how familiar are they with their work.

The History Section provides a number of services which include Historic Resource Studies, Historic Structure Reports, Furnishings Studies, Compliance Studies, etc. Thus far as a Superintendent, I have found that it has not really made much difference to us where these services came from. The important thing is the quality of the service provided and the availability of the service. The quality of the service does not seem to be related to the location of the office. The availability of the service is. The problem is that these services are funded by projects through the programming process, which, as Denny Galvin already said, is all too often tied to some construction project. If the construction project is dropped, the related studies often are dropped. Even more difficult is trying to get one of these studies accomplished and programmed when you have no construction in the schedule. Basically, then you have to have a dammed good justification to get it into the program. A result of personnel and funding constraints.

I have had no involvement with Denver with relation to emergency studies. When we have required such a study - and we just are in the process of completing one at Morristown. Now, it was done through the Regional Office, with their funds.

The situation with Historic Architects is much the same as with History. They do provide services which have to be programmed. And I suspect that this system works well if you have major rehabilitation needs which are recognized by Park Management and the Region and there is someone along the way gifted enough to articulate your case so that it survives the competition with the other needs.

Our biggest problem at the park level has been to develop a maintenance program which will prevent minor problems from becoming major rehabilitation projects. In this respect we have had almost no assistance from Denver. Maybe other areas have had, but we have not. And I would argue that we have substantial need for assistance in the form of guidelines and advice in the daily, routine maintenance of our historic structures. Most often we have the knowledge and skill (maybe not the manpower) to maintain modern buildings and structures. Often, also, with advice, we have the skill to maintain modern historic structures. For example, the Park has the capacity to see that a building is painted, but what kind, how often?

We feel a definite need to have available to us someone who has a good or thorough understanding of the structures and can offer us advice on a continuing basis. And we feel that service can best be provided on a Regional basis. When the loyal people do not have the skill or expertise to do a job or to select a proper method to do a job, we need to seek advice. If that advice is available in the Regional Office we stand a much greater chance of getting attention than if we have to go through Denver. Often the advice can come through a letter or a telephone call and may not require a visit to the area. It has not happened in the past and does not seem likely to happen in the future that such familiarity and accessibility can be provided by the Service Center.

If then you are asking my opinion as to whether Historic Preservation functions should be provided by Denver, or somewhere else, I can only say that my experience has been that some services have been handled well, others not. Basically, our problem has been accessibility and the need for continuing familiarity and I think this can best be provided by the Regional Office.

I haven't said much about quality, mainly because that often varies with the individuals involved. But I would like to mention this one instance which I believe reflects some of my concerns.

Recently a historian from DSC was assigned to write a Resource Management Plan for Morristown. He visited the park and we had some lengthy discussions at which time I elaborated on my concerns, especially on the need to get detailed maintenance schedules and the need to get some idea of what we should be doing with the natural features in the park. Evidently his concept of what the R.M.P. was, or should be, was different than mine because we did not get what I expected. I believe each R.M.P. has to be different, tailored to each park's needs. A common problem in producing anything out a central office is the strong feeling of a need for uniformity. This is not what we needed.

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Last Updated: 14-Jul-2009