Visitor Use, Resource Stewardship, and Management Alternatives

INTRODUCTION

This section contains four alternatives for conserving, managing, and using the Delta’s heritage resources. Together with the concepts presented in the previous section, the management alternatives give Congress a range of options for implementing sections 1103 and 1104 of the Delta Initiatives legislation and suggest for federal, state, and local agencies and organizations viable alternatives for establishing heritage tourism initiatives in the Delta.

The management alternatives could be used for implementing any of the previous 10 concepts individually or could be used to package and manage several of the concepts together. State or local agencies or organizations might want to implement one or all of the concepts independently of federal funding or involvement and these alternatives could easily be modified to meet those needs.

Today’s technology allows for the dissemination of information in ways not available to former generations. Heritage preservation programs, tourism initiatives, and economic development strategies are found on the Internet, as part of interactive computer programs and multimedia educational presentations. Residents, educators, historic preservationists, and tourism officials across the Delta agree that a basic mode of disseminating information about the Delta must include a technological component. Alternative D in this document presents strategies for developing a heritage information network throughout the Delta. Although this alternative could be implemented independent of the other alternatives it should also be considered an integral part of alternatives A, B, and C.

The concepts presented in this document are key to understanding the Delta — its people, places, and historical events — within a national context. The alternatives presented in this section are key to organizing, managing, and sustaining the concepts.

ALTERNATIVE A: LOWER MISSISSIPPI DELTA HERITAGE TOURISM INITIATIVE

Heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the nation’s tourism industry and is projected to continue growing well into the 21st century. This alternative would establish the Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Partnership to coordinate, plan, fund, and implement a regional tourism strategy for the Delta. Drawing on recommendations from the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission this heritage partnership would promote and market the Lower Mississippi Delta as a major travel destination, focusing on the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the region.

VISITOR EXPERIENCE

The following 10 concepts, drawn from the stories of the Delta and presented earlier in the document, form the basis of the visitor experience and interpretation for this heritage tourism initiative.

Comprehensive Concept: Stories of the Delta

  1. Natural Resources The Heart of the Delta
  2. Transforming the Mississippi River: Manipulating the Mississippi River System to Facilitate Navigation and Manage Flood Flows
  3. New Madrid Earthquakes/ Seismic Zone
  4. The People: Encountering the Cultural Diversity of the Lower Mississippi Delta Region
  5. Native American Heritage in the Delta
  6. African-American Heritage in the Delta
  7. The Civil War in the Lower Mississippi Delta
  8. Delta Blues Commemorative Area
  9. Delta Agriculture

By focusing on these concepts visitors would

  • encounter, understand, and appreciate the varied cultural heritages of the Delta
  • learn of the events or opportunities that delivered such a diversity of peoples to the region, of the fluidity with which the cultures sometimes mingled, and the conflicts and accommodations that accompanied such a mingling of diverse cultures
  • discover the tangible expressions of the Delta’s many cultural influences, i.e. architecture, art, literature, music, festivals, institutions, religions, and traditional ceremonies
  • observe and understand the geophysical transformation and the human manipulation of the Mississippi River system and the lower Delta over the centuries
  • discover the abundant and varied natural resources of the Mississippi River system and their importance to the ecological health and well being of systems well beyond the Delta region
  • explore the river towns that arose along the banks of the Mississippi River system and reflect both the evolution of transportation along the river and the economic impact of those changes over time.
  • understand and appreciate the connection between the river system and the rise of agriculture in the Delta
  • understand the role of Delta agriculture in the social, labor, and economic systems in the Delta and the nation

ORIENTATION/INFORMATION

The heritage partnership would utilize existing tourist information centers along the primary highway systems to create an orientation/information network in the Delta, The centers would provide information on sites, museums, cultural centers, and communities to visit as well as brochures for driving, biking, and hiking tours. In addition, the centers would provide information on lodging and food services available in the Delta. An up-to-date calendar of events would be distributed for upcoming festivals, celebrations, and other events in the Delta.

The heritage partnership would coordinate the distribution of materials in the Delta to ensure that visitors receive an orientation to the entire Delta, regardless of which tourist information center they visit. Each tourist information center would offer information on all nine concepts would direct travelers to museums, cultural centers, historic sites, or natural resource sites throughout the Delta. A variety of media would be used to disseminate information on the 10 concepts, including interactive computer kiosks, maps, brochures, and video and audio tapes.

In addition to tourist information centers, signs installed at key locations could direct visitors and residents to sites of interest throughout the Delta. A travelers low-frequency radio network might be installed at gateway locations around the Delta.

INTERPRETATION AND EDUCATION

Interpretation

An integrated system of programs, facilities, sites, exhibits, publications, videos, and Internet sites that present and interpret the nine concepts listed above would be integral to the heritage partnerships work in developing interpretive programs for the Delta. The stories of the Delta and the concepts that reflect them would be presented within the context of the entire region. Emphasis would he placed on telling aspects of all 10 concepts and interpreting the interconnectedness of all the stories of the Delta.

It is envisioned that once visitors received information at one of the tourist information centers, they would then drive, bike, hike, or boat to existing interpretive or cultural centers that focus on one or more of the seven concepts presented in this study. Along the way visitors would experience the Delta landscape — along levees and historic trails and roads, through towns and cities, and along the greatest landscape feature of all — the Mississippi River.

A transportation system comprised of existing roads, rivers, potential abandoned railroad right-of-ways, and hiking trails could be developed, packaged, and marketed for the heritage area.

Education

The heritage partnership would coordinate and implement development of educational programs related to the stories of the Delta. Vital to visitors’ understanding and appreciating the complex heritage of the Delta is Delta residents’ understanding and appreciating the importance of their own heritage. Children and adults alike interact with visitors on a daily basis and are key interpreters of the region’s history and heritage. Educating children early in their school years and holding workshops for adults at community centers and area schools and colleges will help foster a sense of pride and ownership in the stories and resources of the Delta for the people for whom the Delta is home.

An educational program could be developed that would provide opportunities for all levels of education. The curriculum could be designed to be used in a variety of ways. It might be used as the framework for a thematic, cross curricular unit on Delta heritage. Individual lessons might be used to tie with other areas of classroom study; e.g., geography, math, spelling. Lessons could be designed to stand alone and might be taught in any order. Lessons and activities would employ a number of different teaching methods to address the needs of a variety of classroom situations. The curriculum would be flexible and creative.

RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP

The natural, cultural, and historic resources of the Delta will serve as the stimulus for heritage tourism development and marketing. These resources must be protected and preserved if the heritage partnership is to meet its full potential and if future generations will be able to experience and understand the region’s rich past.

Historic and Cultural Resources

Historic and cultural resources provide an important link to the past and are key to understanding the present and future. Many of the Delta’s important resources have already been lost through development, neglect, lack of funding and expertise for protection, natural disasters, poverty, and/or lack of recognition of the importance of preserving heritage resources.

Preservation of historic and cultural resources would include resource surveys, historic preservation education programs, development of historic districts and publication of guidelines and manuals. In addition to resource surveys, documentation efforts word include collecting, archiving, and making available oral histories, historic and current photographs and architectural drawings, blue prints, maps, and appropriate artifacts. Education programs would present appropriate treatment and storage of the collection to ensure their preservation for future use. As other important resources are identified, documentation efforts would also include the preparation of national register nominations and the establishment of local ordinance districts.

Cultural landscapes help define and illustrate important physical features in the Delta. Cotton fields, gins, and cotton bales beside the road in Mississippi recall the days of "King Cotton" and illustrate the abiding presence of agriculture in today’s economy in the Delta. Many of the Delta’s landscapes are changing, however, as development encroaches on those features that recall the region’s agricultural and labor heritage. It will be important to work with private landowners and communities to survey and define the important landscape features of the region, nominate appropriate landscapes to the national register, and interpret the changing nature of the landscape.

Natural Resources

The Lower Mississippi Delta provides habitat and ecological support for a wide variety of flora, fauna and aquatic species. The Mississippi river forms the most important bird and waterfowl migration corridor on the continent while the river bottoms comprise North America’s largest wetland area and bottom land hardwood forest. Regional tourism and resource strategies should encourage local jurisdictions to be pro-active in creating easements or land management programs to protect and conserve these vital resources.

Opportunities may exist for partnering with one or more landowners and/or public agencies to conserve natural resources in the region. Important activities which might be part of a natural resource stewardship program might include conservation partnerships, open space initiatives, innovative conservation and land management mechanisms, and protection of important roads capes and scenic view sheds.

FACILITY DEVELOPMENT

This alternative proposes using existing tourist information centers and the development of various media for the dissemination of information to tourists in the Delta. No new facility development is recommended as part of this alternative.

MANAGEMENT APPROACH

Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Partnership

Under this management approach, a coalition of State representatives and local and private tourism organizations would form a Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Partnership to focus on the coordination, planning, funding, implementation and management of heritage tourism efforts in the region. This strategy would also require federal legislation, however, the primary leadership responsibilities would reside at the State level. The primary emphasis would be providing direction and guiding the development of a comprehensive information and orientation network and a tourism/ economic development/marketing initiative.

Membership

The heritage partnership would be comprised of state tourism representatives, educational institutions, and representatives from local and private sector tourism organizations. The partnership would provide a framework that would bring together existing public and private tourism initiatives and programs and would focus on creating new ones as needed.

Partnership members would be appointed by the governors of each state and would reflect the region’s rich cultural diversity and represent a diversity of heritage resources found in the Delta. The partnership’s chair position would rotate so that each state would have the opportunity to assume a leadership role within the partnership.

The number of members of the heritage partnership would he approximately 15 to enable the partnership to focus primarily on tourism development and marketing. Leadership responsibilities would reside at the state level. Federal involvement would be provided by ex-officio members of the concerned federal agencies in the Delta. It is suggested that the partnership establish subregional advisory committees for planning and implementing the nine concepts presented earlier.

Functions

The partnership would have a formalized management structure that would define the roles and responsibilities of the different participants and coordinate their efforts. The partnership would have its own executive director and staff skilled in heritage tourism. Federal government staff could be detailed for helping with the planning and implementation of heritage tourism efforts.

The partnership would be responsible for: (l) Preparation and approval of a heritage tourism plan for the lower Mississippi Delta. The plan would focus on defining the desired visitor experience; providing direction for tourism and economic development; outlining an information and orientation network; and defining interpretation and educational opportunities. (2) Coordination of public agencies and private sector heritage tourism initiatives at the state, local, and federal levels. (3) Serving as a central clearinghouse for heritage tourism information and ensuring an adequate flow of information to all segments of the tourism industry in the Delta. (4) Providing technical assistance to communities and other entities interested in heritage tourism development. (5) Developing standards and criteria for signs, heritage tourism development, informational and interpretive media such as brochures, self-guided tours, videos, and wayside exhibits that provide a broad context for the stories of the Delta. (6) Preparing and implementing a 10-year strategic plan.

Funding

The partnership would have the authority, through federal legislation, to receive federal funds. These funds would require a match of in-kind services and/or financial support. Funding would be for planning, set-up, coordination among various entities, and seed money for implementation of projects. It is envisioned that a 10-year strategic plan would be prepared, approved and implemented. The plan would address economic development, marketing approaches that support new tourism products, and the level and funding sources for planning, designing, and implementing the nine concepts presented in this document.

At the conclusion of the initial 10-year period, each state would establish a funding mechanism to provide for participation in the partnership as well as implementation of the strategic plan focusing primarily on heritage tourism. This approach would ensure that the comprehensive effort is self-sustaining and that the staff continue with the partnership’s mission. Funding for implementing the 10-year strategic plan would come from a variety of public and private sources outlined in the economic development portion of the strategic plan.

Estimated Costs

This approach is focused primarily on heritage tourism and working largely at the state and local levels. Federal funding would be provided for a 10-year period at a cost not to exceed $500,000 per year or $5 million total. These funds would be used for staff salaries and office set up, administration, and preparation of a heritage tourism plan and 10-year strategic plan. The states and local levels of government as well as the private sector will provide other sources of funding to implement much of the 10-year strategic plan.

ALTERNATIVE B: LOWER MISSISSIPPI DELTA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA

Heritage areas form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. This alternative is offered in recognition of the distinctive landscapes of the Delta and the human interaction with that landscape over thousands of years. It is recognized that heritage areas have been organized and designated in several areas of the country over the last 10 years and although the concept is a viable one, it has not been undertaken within such a large geographic area. Local and regional support for a Delta wide heritage area designation must take into consideration the large area and the need for special coordination and communication challenges inherent in such an undertaking.

The Lower Mississippi Delta is a vast and vital part of the American landscape. This broad alluvial valley provides habitat and ecological support for a wide variety of flora, fauna, and aquatic species. The Mississippi River forms the most important bird and waterfowl migration corridor on the continent. At the same time the Delta’s cultural traditions area as rich as its natural resources. This is a land of converging cultures with a unique complexity and density of history, prehistory, and cultural expression.

The richness of the region’s natural, cultural, and historical resources and the stories of the Delta that make this region worthy of national attention may offer an opportunity to organize and coordinate heritage tourism efforts within a National Heritage Area configuration. This heritage area would focus on the Lower Mississippi River systems, the natural and cultural landscapes that reflect the river’s influences over time, and the rich diversity of people whose traditions have helped shape those landscapes.

VISITOR EXPERIENCE

As in alternative A this alternative would use the nine concepts based on the "Stories of the Della" as the core of the visitor experience for the Lower Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

ORIENTATION/INFORMATION

The orientation/information aspect of this alternative would be the same as alternative A with heavy emphasis on utilizing existing tourist information centers. For this alternative a lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Commission would take the lead in disseminating information and providing comprehensive orientation to the Delta and its resources.

INTERPRETATION AND EDUCATION

The interpretation and education programs outlined in alternative A would also apply to this alternative.

RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP

Historic, Cultural, and Natural Resources

Historic, cultural, and natural resource stewardship efforts would be the same as in alternative A. The Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Area Commission could allow for more comprehensive and coordinated efforts.

FACILITY DEVELOPMENT

As in alternative A this alternative proposes that existing tourist information centers along the primary highway systems in the Delta be used to disseminate information about the Delta heritage area. No new facility development is proposed for this alternative.

MANAGEMENT APPROACH

Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Commission

Under this management approach, a Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Commission would be created through enactment of federal legislation. This Deltawide entity would be established to oversee, coordinate, provide direction, and guide the development of a comprehensive information and orientation network, an interpretation and education program, a historical and cultural preservation program, a natural resource conservation and education program, and a tourism economic development/marketing initiative. Leadership under this approach would be provided at the federal level with extensive involvement at all levels of state and local government, educational institutions, the private sector, and interested groups and individuals.

Membership

The commission would represent a wider partnership of public and private resources than alternative A and would provide a framework to bring together existing public and private sector initiatives and programs and create new ones as needed. Commission members would be appointed by the secretary of the interior and would reflect the rich cultural diversity of the Delta. The secretary would appoint commission members after considering recommendations from a variety of sources to ensure broad representation of all levels of government and the private sector.

It is suggested that the commission be comprised of a representative from each state government, a person from each state representing local government, representatives from the major federal government agencies in lower Mississippi Delta, as well as a person representing the public from each state. It would be desirable if the commission were comprised of professionals from education, tourism, economic development, arts and the humanities, historic preservation, parks and recreation, transportation, business, and agriculture. The greater and wider variety of partners at all levels would enable leveraging resources and moving forward on many fronts.

An important partner for this management approach would he the region’s universities, colleges, and community colleges. This alternative presents an opportunity to establish and nourish strong partnerships among tourism, heritage preservation, and education communities. Historically black colleges and universities in the study area, the Center for the Stud of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, the new Delta Studies Center at Arkansas State University, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, as well as others, contain existing infrastructures for heritage and historic research, economic analysis, and worker training — all important elements for successfully implementing this alternative. Membership of educational institutions on a Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Commission would bring an added dimension vital to protecting and promoting the region’s important resources.

Due to the vastness of the lower Mississippi Delta and the abundance of resources and stories, it is suggested that the commission appoint seven committees to work closely with commission members to plan and implement the concepts presented earlier. Committee chairpersons would be drawn from all seven states and could be appointed by the commission after receiving input from concerned agencies, organizations, and individuals.

Functions

The commission would have a formalized management structure that would define the roles and responsibilities of all the different participants and coordinate their efforts. The commission would have its own staff managed by an executive director. Staff members would he skilled in providing assistance in planning, marketing, historic preservation, tourism, economic development, and grant writing.

The commission would be responsible for: (1) preparation and approval of a comprehensive management plan for the lower Mississippi Delta. The plan would define the desired visitor experience; provide direction for tourism and economic development, historic preservation, and natural resource conservation; identify education initiatives and programs; determine the level and sources of funding for implementing the nine concepts; (2) making loans and grants for the purpose of conserving and protecting sites, buildings, and objects which are related to the natural, cultural, historical, and recreational heritage of the areas; (3) coordinating the activities of federal, state, and local governments as well as educational institutions, private sector initiatives, and public interest projects which further historic preservation, visitor use. preservation, and compatible economic revitalization; (4) providing advice and assistance in preparation of loan or grant applications; (5) disseminating information related to heritage tourism efforts throughout the Delta region, the country, and internationally, utilizing a variety of media, including, but not limited to, Internet technology, newsletters, brochures, television and radio programs, CDs and (6) entering into cooperative agreements with others to purchase, rent, or receive donations of properties or interests in properties for conveyance to an appropriate public agency for use for public purposes.

Funding

Federal funding for commission activities, including salaries, planning and implementation could be up to $1.5 million per year not to exceed ten years. The investment of federal funding is intended to provide for planning, set-up, and initial seed money for implementation. It is envisioned that these funds will be available to appropriate projects on a matching basis, whether it be a financial match and/or in-kind services. The commission would also be eligible for technical assistance on an annual basis based on the merits of their projects judged against other heritage area projects. An economic plan would be prepared concurrently with the comprehensive management plan (CMP) to identify potential public and private funding sources for implementation of the CMP.

At the conclusion of the initial 10-year period, a private/nonprofit group could be federally chartered to further fund raising and investment efforts, establish continued economic analysis and marketing strategies, and serve as project managers for implementing the heritage tourism projects proposed in the CMP. This group would be self-sustaining and would continue to operate on a Deltawide basis. It is hoped that the staff from the commission would continue to function as outlined above.

Estimated Costs

Initial federal investment for this management alternative would be $15 million ($1.5 million x 10 years). It is recognized that current funding levels for existing heritage areas is not this high, however, the large geographic area and increased coordination and communication efforts would warrant this larger funding amount. In addition, because this alternative expands the focus of Delta heritage tourism beyond tourism development and marketing the cost to the federal government would be more than alternative A. These funds would be used for staff salaries and office set up, administration cost for the commission, comprehensive management plan, and economic plan preparation as well as initial implementation of projects. It must be recognized that the cost of implementing the CMP would require funding beyond the initial $15 million federal investment and would require a public/private partnership approach. The economic plan developed by the commission would give direction for initiating and sustaining funding for the heritage area.

The following are examples of projects that might be identified in the CMP that would need specific funding strategies:

  • Information/orientation media and materials
  • Interpretive media and materials
  • Educational media and materials
  • Signing and/or any facility development along heritage corridors and routes
  • Resource surveys and national register nominations

ALTERNATIVE C: LOWER MISSISSIPPI DELTA HERITAGE CENTERS

In their final report to the president and Congress in 1990 the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission made recommendations for the creation and development of centers for the preservation of the cultural, historical, and literary heritage of the Delta region. The report also included recommendations for establishing a Delta Region Native American Heritage and Cultural Center and a Delta Region African-American Heritage and Cultural Center with additional satellite centers or museums linked throughout the Delta region.

This alternative, based on the commission’s recommendations and sections 1103 and 1104 of Public Law 103-433 (Lower Mississippi Delta Region Initiatives), proposes the establishment of seven heritage/cultural centers in the Delta region. A heritage/cultural center would be located in each state of the study area (southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri, western Kentucky, western Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana) and would focus on interpreting the "Stories of the Delta" as represented in this study’s 10 concepts.

VISITOR EXPERIENCE

As in alternatives A and B the 10 concepts based on the "Stories of the Delta" would he the basis for the visitor experience and interpretation at each of the seven heritage centers.

ORIENTATION/INFORMATION

Each state would use a variety of media to alert travelers to the location of the Delta Heritage Center in their state. Brochures, maps, and video and audio tapes would be available at tourist information centers along the primary highway systems. In addition each state would include information about the center at their Internet site on the World Wide Web. Signs installed at key locations could also direct visitors and residents to the heritage centers.

INTERPRETATION AND EDUCATION

Interpretation

Interpretation of the Stories of the Delta and the concepts that reflect them would be presented within the context of the entire Delta region at each heritage center. Each center would feature an overview of Delta heritage and would also present material on the Delta heritage of that particular state. It would be important for the centers to coordinate and exchange exhibits and interpretive material to ensure visitors receive a regional perspective of the Delta. A variety of interpretive media, including films, interactive computer programs, exhibits, brochures, and walking trails around the center would be used to convey to visitors the broad context of Delta heritage.

It is suggested that once visitors reviewed the interpretive programs at the heritage center they would be directed to other museums, historic sites, trails, or natural resource areas throughout the Delta to receive more in-depth information about a particular facet of Delta heritage. Driving, hiking, biking and/or boating tours could be developed in conjunction with the heritage centers and could direct visitors along the levees and historic trails and roads, through its towns and cities, and particularly leading visitors to the great body of water of myth and legend — the Mississippi River.

Education

Educational programs developed in conjunction with the Delta Heritage Centers could be used in local schools and communities to develop in children and adult residents an appreciation for and pride in their Delta heritage. Educational outreach programs could encourage residents to participate in oral history and folk life programs enriching the interpretive programs at the centers and preserving heritage resources for future generations.

An educational program could he developed that would provide opportunities for all levels of education and participation. The curriculum could be designed to be used in a variety of ways. It might be used as the framework for a thematic, cross curricular unit on Delta heritage. Individual lessons might be focused on oral histories and/or folk ways. Lessons could be designed to stand alone and might be taught in any order. Lessons and activities could be initiated at the schools or at the heritage centers and would employ a number of different teaching methods to address the need of the students. The curriculum would be flexible, innovative, interactive, and creative.

RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP

The Delta’s natural, cultural, and historical resources are the core reasons for establishing seven Delta heritage centers. The centers would showcase the rich variety of resources found in the Delta and should include information on the importance of preserving and protecting them so that future generations might experience and understand the region’s rich past.

Historic and Cultural Resources

Historic and cultural resources provide and important link to the past and are key to under- standing the present and the future. It is suggested that each heritage center be established in a historic structure. The structure could be rehabilitated or adapted for use as a heritage center.

Since this alternative focuses on a single heritage center in each state as a heritage tourism strategy, resource preservation and protection strategies would he primarily programmatic and might take the form of technical assistance and/or educational programs.

Historic preservation programs could be developed in conjunction with the heritage centers and might include technical assistance in preparing National Register nominations, conducting resource surveys, and/or initiating oral history programs. Educational programs might address appropriate treatment and storage of artifact collections, appropriate treatment of historic structures in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior standards, and/or developing exhibits at historic sites or local museums.

Natural Resources

The Lower Mississippi Delta provides habitat and ecological support for a wide variety of flora, fauna and aquatic species. The Mississippi River forms the most important bird and waterfowl migration corridor on the continent while the river bottoms comprise north America’s largest wetland area and bottom land hardwood forest. Since this alternative focuses on a single heritage center in each state as a heritage tourism strategy, natural resource conservation strategies would be primarily programmatic and might take the form of technical assistance and/or educational programs.

Natural resource conservation programs could be developed in conjunction with the heritage centers and might include outreach programs, brochures, and/or demonstration projects in partnership with public or private landowners. Education programs might address the importance of the Delta’s migration corridor and wetlands to the nation and the world or present a variety of conservation strategies whose goals include ensuring future generations enjoyment of the rich natural heritage of the Delta.

FACILITY DEVELOPMENT

This alternative proposes the construction of seven Delta heritage centers — one in each of the states in the study area. It is suggested that the centers be situated in historic structures if possible. If a structure of sufficient size could not he located and/or made available reasonably, new construction is proposed.

Congress would authorize the development of the seven heritage centers and would appropriate funds for their construction. The secretary of the interior would be authorized to establish criteria, in consultation with other concerned federal agencies and state representatives, for location, design, and development of interpretive media and exhibits for the centers. The secretary would be responsible for overseeing construction of the facilities.

MANAGEMENT APPROACH

Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Center Task Force

Under this management approach seven Delta heritage centers would be constructed in the Delta. Congress would establish a Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Center Task Force to oversee the project. Once funds were appropriated by Congress, the secretary of the interior, as chair of the task force, would be responsible for planning, design, and construction of the centers. Once the centers were completed and interpretive media and exhibits were in place, the centers would become the responsibility of each state to staff, manage, and maintain.

It is envisioned that after the seven centers were completed, the task force would still be needed to ensure that programs and information would be coordinated between the seven centers.

Membership

To accomplish this joint undertaking of planning, design, and construction Congress would establish a Delta Heritage Center Task Force whose membership would include federal agencies and state government representatives and would reflect the cultural diversity of the region. One representative from each state would be appointed to the task force by the governors. The secretary of the interior, or his representative, would act as chairperson and would he responsible for ensuring completion of the task force’s work. Representatives from other concerned federal agencies would also he appointed and would bring the number of members of the task force to 15 working members. The task force would develop and maintain a communication network and solicit input from the public at the appropriate times during the planning and design phases of the project.

Functions

The Delta Heritage Center Task Force would be responsible for: (1) developing criteria for site selection and design guide lines for development of the heritage centers; (2) communicating with and seeking input from Delta residents during the planning and design phases of the project; (3) overseeing design and construction of the seven heritage centers; and (4) turning the centers over to the governors of the respective states at the completion of the project.

Funding

Congress would authorize and appropriate funds for the planning, design, and construction of the seven heritage centers. Once the centers were complete the states would assume responsibility for maintaining, managing, and staffing the centers.

Cost Estimates

Land and/or structures would be donated by the states. In recognition of budgetary constraints and fiscal limitations for federal funding, a maximum of $3 million in federal dollars per heritage/cultural center would be expended for this alternative. Each center would include an orientation/information desk, lobby, rest rooms, interpretive/education exhibits, a theater, office space, and adequate parking.

The funds for the centers might be allocated in one of several ways including: grants to each state for planning, design, and construction; funding match requirements; planning, design, and construction by the National Park Service and turning over the centers to the states upon completion; or matching requirements of funding and in-kind services. For any of these options federal funding would remain $3 million per center. There would be no cost to the federal government to staff and maintain the facility, this would be the responsibility of each state when they assumed management responsibilities for the centers.

ALTERNATIVE D: SHARING DELTA HERITAGE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

The information age and the technology currently available for communicating and sharing information with a wide audience presents opportunities for establishing a Delta Heritage Information Network. The network would disseminate information on the rich natural, cultural, and historical legacy of the Delta, nationally and internationally, through the Internet, interactive computer programs and CD technology, in this alternative technology would become the vehicle for stimulating heritage tourism in the Lower Mississippi Delta for the 21st century and beyond.

This alternative proposes a two track approach to disseminating heritage information about the Delta. The first track would focus on reaching Delta residents through schools, public libraries, and communities. This track would especially target less prosperous Delta areas where Internet access is less common. The second track would target a national and international audience seeking heritage preservation and tourism information about the Delta.

VISITOR EXPERIENCE

The 10 concepts based on the "Stories of the Delta" would remain the basis for developing computer, video, and audio program, posters, and brochures for this alternative. Students and visitors would use various technologies to "experience" the Delta or to plan trips to the region to experience it first-hand.

ORIENTATION/INFORMATION

Unlike the first three alternatives, visitors to the Delta would explore the region via computers at local libraries, visitor centers, schools, community centers, and/or at home. The rich heritage of the Delta would be presented in such a way as to stimulate people to learn more about the area and to subsequently make vacation plans to visit some of the places they have visited on the Internet or through other computer programs. The Internet sites would provide information, in entertaining and creative ways, on museums, cultural centers, and communities in the Delta and present the stories of the Delta as reflected in the 10 concepts developed in this study.

The network would be updated regularly and spotlight different stories, concepts, and sites at different times of the year. Like the other alternatives the Delta Heritage Information Network would focus on the entire Delta and would relate stories and sites within a regional context.

INTERPRETATION AND EDUCATION

Interpretation

An integrated and interchangeable system of computer and Internet programs would be developed to implement this alternative. Current and everchanging and improving graphic technology would allow exciting new ways to present the Delta’s rich heritage.

"Chat rooms" would allow ongoing dialogue and lively debates about the people, places. and events that have made the Delta a vital part of our national character. Exciting graphics and Delta games would challenge visitors to learn more about the Delta and its people and would offer opportunities for integrating the information into educational programs.

It is envisioned that once visitors to the Delta Heritage Network were introduced to the richness of this vast and exciting region, they would want to explore the region for themselves and would make plans to visit some of the places and people that had "experienced" on the network.

In addition to the interpretive information presented, as a part of each program, auto, boat, bike, and hiking tour information would also be presented and travelers would be able to secure reservations for hotels, performances, and tours in the region. Video, CDs, and cassette tapes would be developed to make a wide variety of media available to all visitors.

The Delta Heritage Information Network could become a vital part of education programs within and outside the Delta region at all levels of education. Graduate students at universities, colleges, and community colleges throughout the Delta could he challenged through a design competition to design educational curriculum for the Internet. Other students, including adult learners, could develop oral histories and accompanying graphics to help preserve the heritage of older Delta residents.

Students from several schools could combine their skills and creative ideas to develop criteria for creating Delta heritage programs to ensure that they are ‘user friendly’ and accessible for all school districts and students in the Delta.

Students in business, marketing, and tourism related studies could be called upon to develop ways to market and distribute the information of the network.

RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP

The natural, cultural, and historic resources of the Delta remain the stimulus for creating a Delta Heritage Information Network. The network would present, in graphic and creative ways, strategies for local organizations, historic sites, museums, natural resource sites, and private landowners to protect and preserve the region’s resources. Information would be presented that would tell those interested where they could obtain technical assistance, grants, or other important information.

The network would present various topics and would explore them in-depth on resource stewardship on a monthly basis. The network would also present a ‘chat room’ where questions and issues could be addressed online.

The flexibility of the Internet and online opportunities could help sites and organizations improve their resource protection and preservation efforts.

FACILITY DEVELOPMENT

This alternative proposes development of a Delta Heritage Information Network using Internet and other computer technologies. No new development is recommended as part of this alternative.

MANAGEMENT APPROACH

The Delta Heritage Information Network would be managed through a Delta Heritage Information Center. The director of the center would be responsible for organizing, staffing, and implementing the network. Staff would include at least one education/interpretive specialist experienced in developing Internet sites, computer programs and graphic designs. The center would work closely with the region’s universities and colleges to identify and use subject matter experts in Delta history, natural resources, folkways, and heritage preservation.

The center could contract for development of multimedia products such as CD-ROM, videos, brochures, and/or posters and tapes. The center could develop cooperative agreements with local and regional organizations interested in furthering educational and interpretive programs through technology and would work closely with education departments to ensure the widest possible access to Delta heritage programs.

Functions

The Delta Heritage Information Center would have a formalized management structure to define roles and responsibilities and coordinate efforts. The center would have a director and its own staff skilled in computer technologies and marketing.

The center would be responsible for (1) organizing and implementing a Delta Heritage Information Network; (2) serving as a clearing house of information on Delta heritage tourism initiatives and projects; (3) developing a Delta Heritage Internet site and appropriate Delta heritage computer educational and interpretive programs; (4) developing standards and criteria for heritage related information programs within the Delta; (5) coordinating with education departments, colleges, and universities to ensure the widest distribution of information (6) coordinating heritage tourism information nationally and internationally with other concerned agencies and organizations in the Delta; and (7) preparing a 10-year strategic plan that would also identify long-term funding strategies to support the information network.

Funding

The Delta Heritage Information Center would receive federal funding for organization and implementation of the Delta Heritage Information Network for five years after authorization and appropriation of funds from Congress. The center would develop a 10-year strategic plan for continuing the network’s ongoing projects and programs in the private sector, perhaps through a private/nonprofit organization. Federal funds would be used for initial computer purchase and set-up, staffing, graphic/Internet contractors, and administrative requirements.

Estimated Costs

It is estimated that the federal cost for startup, equipment purchase, staffing, and contacting services would be approximately $165,000 for the first year. Maintenance of the network for five years would be approximately $380,000 for a total for setup and maintenance for 5 years of $545,000. The cost of contracting for multimedia products (CD-ROM, videos, posters, brochures, etc.) produced over five years would he approximately $820,000. The total federal cost to implement this alternative would be $1,365,000.

Last updated: November 16, 2017