The hurricane season of 2005 was a devastating event for the Gulf Coast; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed lives, communities, families, and countless historic resources. In response to this loss of historic fabric and with the hope that many of the remaining resources could be saved the National Park Service received a total of $53 million in federal grant funding to aid in the historic preservation efforts in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
This funding supports the preservation, stabilization, rehabilitation, and repair of historic properties listed in or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Three million of the funding was for assistance with completing Federal compliance requirements.
This grant program is still active and will continue to provide immeasurable preservation stories and solutions as it unfolds but here are just a few of the lessons learned to date from operating this program at the national, state, and local level:
• It is imperative to have preservation professionals work with volunteer groups to ensure that historic materials that can be repaired or rehabilitated are not removed.
• Better coordination among local, state, and Federal agencies is needed so that resources are used in the most efficient manner and efforts are not duplicated.
• Streamline operations at all levels and apply creative thinking to unique problems.
• Preservation professionals need better tools to educate homeowners on caring for and restoring historic properties.
• It is important to manage expectations of all parties; for example, if a project is going to take six months to complete be honest about the timeline no matter how much everyone wishes it would happen faster. Have patience recovery does not happen overnight.