The Bear River Heritage Area, which includes Franklin County, is seeking national designation as an historically and resource-rich area in the nation. To help people and organizations understand what that means, a Discovery Day has been set for 10-11:30 a.m., Monday, Sept. 16, at the Larsen — Sant Library, to share the accomplishments, mission and goals of the group. A question-and-answer period will be included on the agenda.
National designation would mean local heritage sites could qualify for national grants. The whole region can receive as $100,000 or more for heritage sites and buildings, creating experiences and exhibits, tourism initiatives and more.
“If people care about what we have been doing for last 18 years, by highlighting this area, then we want to be able to keep doing it,” said Lisa Duskin-Goede, coordinator of the BRHA, who has promoted the area for that time on a budget of $6,000-$8,000. “It’s not sustainable like it has been. (National designation) provides us the most stable way to continue what we’ve been doing,” she said.
Representatives from the Great Basin National Heritage Area and from Congressman James Risch’s office, and other guests from city and county government will be on hand to discuss the process of national designation.
Heritage tourism is, according to The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States, “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past,” and “heritage tourism can include cultural, historic and natural resources.”
Representatives and the general public from northern Utah and southeastern Idaho are encouraged to attend.
The Bear River Heritage Area was created in 2000 as a way of supporting and protecting local heritage resources and increasing economic development through heritage tourism.
The BRHA includes seven counties: Franklin, Bear Lake, Caribou and Oneida in southeastern Idaho, and Box Elder, Cache and Rich in northern Utah, all located, in whole or in part, within the Bear River drainage area.
In Franklin County alone, there are several historic sites, areas, events and resources that help today’s residents and visitors appreciate the people of the past for the community that exists today.
Some of them are the Bear River Massacre site, the Oneida Stake Academy building, the Bear River on Oneida Narrows, the Franklin Relic Hall and Historic District (Hatch and Doney Homes and the old Franklin City Hall and Jail), the DUP Pioneer Museum, Century farms and ranches, That Famous Preston Night rodeo, historic barns which were catalogued into a recent guide by Myrna Fuller and the Bear River Heritage Area. It also includes local businesses over 60 years old, such as West Motor, the Owl Billiards, the Preston Citizen, Arctic Circle, Worm Creek Opera House, Hansen Glass & Paint, Dear Cliff Inn, U & I Furniture, Pop ‘n Pins Bowling Alley, Webb Funeral Home and Papa Jay’s Store.
National designation will not give the BRHA any power to tell privately-owned properties and businesses, what they can and can’t do, said Duskin-Goede. “We’re just trying to organize a grass-roots effort to help preserve our history and encourage heritage related businesses to come in,” she said.
There are two national heritage areas in Utah — The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area in central and southern Utah, and the Great Basins National Heritage Area that spans the Utah/Nevada border.
Duskin-Goede and her associates have been trying to garner the national designation since 2000, but until all lawmakers agree to do so, that won’t be possible. She attributes the difficulty in getting their consensus to fears it could infringe on private property ownership and local zoning capabilities.
If local governments support the idea, and the BRHA attains the national designation, those federal funds can be helpful in raising additional funding for heritage sites. For example, the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area leverages the federal funding to bring in $19 for every federal dollar that comes into the area.
National designation will help the BRHA to obtain both federal and non-federal grants to aid heritage groups in preserving historic main streets, developing historical sites, provide exhibits, gather public input and local histories, preserve cemeteries and create new interpretive centers, for example.
The BRHA attracts just over 1.1 million visitors from outside the region, said Duskin-Goede. Those visitors spend between an estimated $41.5 million to $75.5 million within the region. Because of the economic impact of outside tourism, over 130 government and private entities within the BRHA area have supported the effort to provide greater preservation and economic opportunity for partners in the Bear River Region since 2001.
This national designation would provide more support for that cause, she said.