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Contact: Susan Snow, 210.534.8833
San Antonio community leaders gathered today to launch the final step in the application process to bring World Heritage site status to the San Antonio Missions. The United States government has authorized the San Antonio Missions to prepare a dossier to submit to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the highly-regarded World Heritage designation, but it is now up to the San Antonio community to complete the application to make this quest a reality. The application process will take about 18 months to complete at a cost of about $650,000.
Speakers at the San Antonio Missions World Heritage project launch included:
Nelson Wolff, Bexar County Judge
Father David Garcia, Director of the Old Spanish Missions for the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio
John Lujan, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Superintendent
Suzanne Scott, San Antonio River Authority General Manager
"Gaining World Heritage status would bring the San Antonio Missions to the same level of world acknowledgement as the Pyramids of Egypt, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the United States' Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon and Redwood National Park," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. "These sites are some of the world's most cherished and visited landmarks on Earth. San Antonio now has the opportunity for its five Missions to make that world-class list. It would be the first World Heritage site in the State of Texas and only the 22nd World Heritage designation in the United States."
Three significant improvements around the Missions are coming together which will give the World Heritage application a major boost; they include:
- $15.5 million in improvements and an endowment for the Mission churches sponsored by the Las Misiones
- $358 million San Antonio River improvement project managed by the San Antonio River Authority and funded by Bexar County, City of San Antonio and U.S. Corps of Engineers
- $4 million San Juan Demonstration Farm funded by Bexar County and Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions
The National Park Service, which maintains the majority of the Missions facilities, is leading the World Heritage application process, but the entire San Antonio community can play a part in this unique opportunity. A brand new website, www.MissionsofSanAntonio.org," was launched today to help facilitate information sharing and community involvement.
The World Heritage steering committee is encouraging citizens and businesses alike to view the page, offer support for the World Heritage project via comments and donations and to spread the word throughout the community about the effort. There is also a place on the website for people to upload photos and their favorite Missions stories. All of this community support will be addressed in the Missions application and will help demonstrate San Antonio's appreciation of the Missions and willingness to ensure long-term preservation.
"New photography was shot just for this website," said Father David Garcia. "The images are stunning and taken from angles never seen before. As a San Antonio native, I've been associated with the Missions for 60 years and was captivated by these artfully done photos. Our goal is to make them available to the public at some point in the World Heritage process."
The public will get its next opportunity to hear about and comment on the San Antonio Missions World Heritage process on Thursday evening, August 23, as the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park will be hosting a public meeting from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Mission San José Visitor Center, 6701 San José Drive.
The World Heritage Advisory Committee is made of representatives from Bexar County, City of San Antonio, San Antonio River Authority, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions, San Antonio Conservation Society, the General Land Office of the State of Texas, and Daughters of the Republic of Texas and National Parks Conservation Association. This committee will oversee the World Heritage working group which will include a consultant who has assisted with other successful World Heritage applications in the past.
"It's hard to describe just how important having the San Antonio Missions elevated to World Heritage status will be for San Antonio and Texas," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. "Most San Antonians know about the Missions, but their historical and cultural significance to Texan and American heritage is not thoroughly understood. We now have an opportunity to shed a very bright light on our Missions, share these irreplaceable works of art with the world and make San Antonio a World Heritage Site."
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established in 1978 to preserve, restore, and interpret the Spanish colonial missions of San Antonio, which represent the largest concentration of cultural resources from the Spanish colonial period in the United States.
Los Compadres is the non-profit friends group to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Chartered in 1983, Los Compadres has raised over $4 million for preservation, rehabilitation, education and development projects for which no government funds are available.
For more information about the National Park Service and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park please visit the park's web site at www.nps.gov/saan. For more information about the park's friends group, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, visit www.loscompadres.org.
- NPS -