Wednesday, September 30, 2009

National Park Service Second Century Report, Essex Heritage Long Range Planning Update, and Topsfield Fair Opens


National Park Service Second Century Report Released

A panel of nationally known experts headed by former United States Senators, Howard Baker and Bennett Johnson has been meeting across this country, with the goal of offering a recommendation to the National Park Service relative to how the Park Service might move forward in the second Century of their existence. The Essex National Heritage Commission has played an important role in those deliberations as in 2008 the Second Century Commission made a visit to this region to learn how the partnership that has been established here between the National Park Service, the communities in this region, and the many private partners we have established relationship with is working. This blue-ribbon panel visited the Lowell National Historic Park for an exploratory visit, and in addition, a visit was set for the panel to hold a hearing in the Essex Heritage region. That hearing was held at the Gould Barn in Topsfield and followed an extraordinary dinner meeting at the Boot Mills the night before in Lowell. Several Essex Heritage Trustees attended both the dinner and the hearing in Topsfield and used that opportunity to interact with the members of the Commission in both a social and formal way. It is clear that the advocates for the work of the Essex National Heritage Commission had an impact on the thinking of the Second Century members as their recently released findings clearly illustrate.

The findings and recommendations concerning the National Park Service that have just been released to the United State Congress by the Commission is to “authorize, clearly define and base fund a system of National Heritage Areas, and to encourage, where possible, the establishment of Heritage Areas in association with National Parks”. The Second Century group continued their findings by stating that “to advance the 21st Century National Park Service idea, the Congress of the United Sates should, “provide the National Park Service with clear legal authority , not withstanding any other provision of law, to enter into cooperative agreements without competition that benefit both National Park Service and Heritage Area partners, define public purpose to include both direct benefits to the National Park Service and to partners for projects within and outside park boundaries.”

The panel also indicated that they have seen the current reality function at or near optimum level in their meeting at Lowell National Historical Park and the Essex National Heritage Area, and the Salem Maritime National historic Site, “where two units of the National Park Service; a National Heritage Area; National Historic Landmarks; National Register of Historic Places; Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance; and state, local and private sector entities interested in cultural resources, natural resources, scenic beauty, recreation, education, and economic function in nearly seamless harmony.” They went on to point our in their recent release that, “it is essential to fund National Heritage Areas to a level that will allow then to carry out their work. Otherwise the hope raised by each new authorization eventually will result in disappointments, failure and cynicism.”

These comments are a powerful endorsement of the Heritage Area concept in general and in particular the work of the Essex National Heritage Commission and how well it works in this region for the National Park Service, the 34 communities we serve, the dozens of private partnerships we have established and most particularly the three quarters of a million residents who call Essex County home... We now anxiously wait to learn how the recommendation of the powerful Second Century Commission is received in Washington and how they will be implemented in the future.

Essex Heritage Commission Long-Range Planning Process Continues

For the last several weeks, the Executive Committee of the Essex Heritage Commission has been meeting to help devise a plan for what the Commission will look like three to five years from now. The participation in this process by the volunteers who make up the leadership of this initiative has been most gratifying. The efforts undertaken was to first identify the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that existed for Essex Heritage and then from that position begin to craft a plan for the future. That effort has been led by Immediate Past President Nancy Stager, Executive Vice President of Eastern Bank and current ENHC President, Kevin Tierney, CEO of Saugus Bank. When the planning process is complete issues like:

· The expansion of the Regional Voice of Essex Heritage
· The expansion of the relationship with the National Park Service
· An increase in awareness and the education of local leaders and the public

wll all have been examined and strategies, and tactics to enhance the mission of Essex Heritage will have been established

Topsfield Fair Opens Next Week

I have mentioned this premier regional event in this space before, but clearly one of the events that helps identify the history and heritage of this region is the Topsfield Fair. Just a reminder that the Fair opens on Friday, October 2, 2009 and runs through the Columbus Day Holiday. The Essex Agricultural Society that manages the Fair is one of Essex Heritage’s strongest partners and the events scheduled in Topsfield over the next week or so is classic “Americana”. Make plans to take the family to the Fair for a visit. There is something happening there for everyone in the family.

As always, your questions, comments and observations about anything that you read here, and our work is important to us. I can be reached at Let us know what you think. Thank you. Tom Leonard

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