The South Park region has long been revered as a nearly pristine example of well-protected natural resources and existing historic mining and ranching structures. After many years of work to achieve the designation, in March 2009 Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed a bill designating the South Park National Heritage Area – one of less than 50 such congressionally designated areas in the United States that represent the history of the country. The people of South Park believe strongly in the need to protect our abundant cultural and natural resources while encouraging others to enjoy them with us.
The South Park National Heritage Area is managed by the government of Park County, Colorado in cooperation with the South Park National Heritage Area Advisory Board.The Park County Department of Heritage, Tourism, and Community Development utilizes the designation to achieve goals outlined in the Management Plan, along with numerous community partners. The National Park Service serves an advisory role by providing technical, planning, and limited financial assistance to the Heritage Area, but decision-making authority remains in the hands of local people and organizations.
What is a National Heritage Area?
National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. Through their resources, Heritage Areas tell nationally important stories that celebrate our nation’s diverse heritage. Heritage Areas are lived-in landscapes. Therefore, Heritage Area entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs. They are a grassroots, community-driven approach to natural and cultural heritage conservation and economic development. Communities benefit from Heritage Area designation in tangible as well as intangible ways.
Because heritage conservation efforts are grounded in a community’s pride in its history and traditions, designation offers a collaborative approach to conservation that does not compromise local control over and use of the landscape. Designation also comes with limited financial and technical assistance from the National Park Service. National Heritage Areas expand the mission of the National Park Service by fostering community stewardship of our nation’s heritage. The program, which currently includes 49 Heritage Areas, expands on traditional approaches to resource stewardship by supporting community-driven initiatives that connect local citizens to heritage planning and implementation.