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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesHearing Mulls All of St. Croix as Heritage Area

Hearing Mulls All of St. Croix as Heritage Area

A proposed designation of St. Croix as a national heritage area would give the island an important tool in promoting tourism and economic development, an audience of some two dozen people were told at a public hearing Saturday morning.

Saturday’s hearing to discuss the NHA feasibility study was one of four scheduled around the island. The first session Saturday morning was specifically for representatives of local businesses. A second was held beginning at noon for general interest. They were the final two of four hearings on the measure.

Congressional Delegate Donna Christensen, who is among the leaders of the proposal, was on hand to hear comments.

Chris Abbett of the National Park Service’s Atlanta offices, gave examples from some of the 49 existing heritage areas throughout the United States to show the potential of the program.

Cultural or heritage tourism is one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry, he said. A 2002 study showed that 118 million U.S. tourists, 81 percent of the total that year, were considered cultural heritage tourists. These tourists tend to stay in one place longer and spend more ($623 per person per trip, not including transportation costs, compared to $457 for all travel) and patronize local merchants, Abbett said.

The Erie Canal National Heritage Area in upstate New York found recently that visitors to the region generated $38 million in sales at local businesses, supporting 507 jobs.

Federal money is available to support the efforts of the national heritage area, Abbett added, and that money tends to leverage additional funding from other agencies and businesses for planning and promotions at a rate of about $8 for every $1 of federal money.

Decisions for promoting culture and heritage are made locally, he said. While the designation is overseen by the National Park Service, the park service does not mandate land use or program management, nor can federal funds be used to buy land for the program.

But the local managers of the heritage area can call on the park service for technical planning and assistance and limited financial assistance, he added.

Designation as a national heritage area helps foster community partnerships, preserve the area’s cultural identity, stimulate tourism and share the area’s story with the world.

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