Tremonton City has formally put its support behind a regional effort to promote the Bear River area’s historical and cultural resources as a means of increasing tourism in the area.
For the better part of two decades, the Bear River Association of Governments has been working on establishing the Bear River Heritage Area, encompassing several counties in northern Utah and southeast Idaho.
Those involved in the project are now working to establish it as a national heritage area, which would make it eligible for federal grant funding.
Pooling the area’s Native American cultural sites, pioneer trails and settlement sites, and other historical and cultural assets will make it easier to present the Bear River as a unified area and help draw more visitors into local communities, said Brian Carver, community and economic development director for BRAG.
Carver said the effort is patterned after a national program created by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to identify and promote areas near national parks.
“Our immediate area has no national parks; however, we have national historic sites, monuments, bird and wildlife refuges and a national grassland,” he said. “We justify a lot of this as economic development. “We want to promote these opportunities for people to visit our area, to learn about the unique culture and history, purchase local arts and crafts, spend the night and buy a meal.”
At a meeting last week, the Tremonton City Council approved a resolution expressing the city’s support for the designation of the Bear River National Heritage Area.
Establishment of a national heritage area requires an act of the U.S. Congress, and Carver said Utah Congressman Rob Bishop is currently working on a bill to that end.
“We’re currently contacting all communities in our area, trying to rebuild a support network,” Carver said. “We’re just trying to get as much awareness as possible and trying to get written letters of support. They go a long way in helping Congressman Bishop back in Washington.”
Tremonton City Manager Shawn Warnke said the effort fits in well with the city’s efforts to establish a historic district in town.
“They’re not asking for any funds from (the city),” Warnke said, “just our political support.”
The effort includes Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties in Utah; and the Idaho counties of Bear Lake, Caribou, Franklin and Oneida.
Carver said a national heritage area designation isn’t like a national park or national monument. It wouldn’t be involved in local land use decisions, water management decisions, or have any impact on private property rights, he said.
“This is not a government land grab,” he said. “A heritage area has no regulatory authority. There’s a long list of ‘thou shalt nots’ in there.“
Landowners who have sites with historical or cultural value on their property wouldn’t be required to participate in any activities related to the heritage area, he said.
“We want this to be a voluntary opportunity,” Carver said. “Becoming part of the national heritage area program opens up a lot more resources to us.”