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Regional partners celebrate heritage designation

Representatives of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Partnership (left to right): Dr. Luther Brown, former Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning; Frank Howell, Delta Council; Ken Murphree, former Governor’s Appointee to the MDNHA board; Mike Madell, Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service;  Dr. Bernard Cotton, Alcorn State University;  Spencer Nash, Delta Foundation;  Myrtis Tabb, Delta State University;  Kappi Allen, Bolivar, Coahoma, Quitman, and Tallahatchie counties;  Paula Sykes, Washington, Sunflower and Issaquena counties;  Meg Cooper, Warren, Yazoo, and Sharkey counties; Tom Pearson, Mississippi Arts Commission; Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning. Photo by Roy Meeks.

Representatives of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Partnership (left to right): Dr. Luther Brown, former Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning; Frank Howell, Delta Council; Ken Murphree, former Governor’s Appointee to the MDNHA board; Mike Madell, Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service; Dr. Bernard Cotton, Alcorn State University; Spencer Nash, Delta Foundation; Myrtis Tabb, Delta State University; Kappi Allen, Bolivar, Coahoma, Quitman, and Tallahatchie counties; Paula Sykes, Washington, Sunflower and Issaquena counties; Meg Cooper, Warren, Yazoo, and Sharkey counties; Tom Pearson, Mississippi Arts Commission; Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning. Photo by Roy Meeks.

A recent public celebration at Hopson Commissary in Clarksdale officially launched the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA), a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service.

“This designation, which was signed a few weeks ago by the Secretary of the Interior, was a culmination of over five years of hard work by the governing board and input from citizens throughout the Delta who cared deeply about this special place called the Mississippi Delta,” said Spencer Nash, vice chair of the governing board the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

“There are less than 50 National Heritage Areas around the country, and you must undergo a rigorous management planning process in order to receive your official designation and get the seal of approval from the National Park Service. We have achieved that milestone and are looking forward to instituting plans and activities that are outlined in our management plan that will allow the Delta to more fully reap the rewards of heritage and cultural activities,” said Nash.

The MDNHA was authorized under federal law in 2009, with strong support by Congressman Bennie Thompson and Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker.  Like other National Heritage Areas, it is a legal partnership between a defined geographic region and the National Park Service. In the Delta’s case, it is all of the 18 counties that include the alluvial floodplain of the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers.  The partnership is designed to promote the Delta’s heritage in ways that benefit its people, both by spreading information about history and culture and by stimulating economic development based primarily on heritage tourism.

The planning process involved public meetings, surveys, interviews and an inventory of heritage resources. It resulted in the production of a formal management plan, a document that describes what the National Heritage Area will do and how it will be governed and managed for the first decade of operation.  The Management Plan must be evaluated and approved by several federal agencies and then approved by the National Park Service, a process that ended this past July when the National Park Service gave final approval of the management plan. The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University manages the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

“Our management plan will guide the next decade of work by the Heritage Area,” said John Hilpert, chair of the governing board and the Governor’s appointee. “We expect that the National Park Service’s designation will draw visitors to the Delta from all over the world, and it will allow the people of the Delta to tell their own stories. This is the place that people need to visit to learn about the Blues, the Civil Rights Movement, agriculture, the Mississippi River, and so many other things.”

More information about the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, including the complete approved Management Plan, is available at www.msdeltaheritage.com.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, as authorized by Congress in 2009, includes 18 counties – Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo. The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is governed by a board of directors representing agencies and organizations defined in the Congressional legislation and is managed by the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

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