A public celebration of the Mississippi Delta’s designation as an official National Heritage Area by the National Park Service is planned for Aug. 21 at Hopson Commissary on Hwy. 61 south of Clarksdale, Miss.
The designation became official in July after the U.S. Secretary of Interior signed off on the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s management plan.
“This is a big day in the life of the Mississippi Delta, and we want to pause and acknowledge the significance of it,” said John Hilpert, chairman of the 15-member governing board of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. “Since being authorized in 2009 to allow us to compete for this designation, a lot of people and organizations have come together to make this Delta success story a reality, and we want to acknowledge that in a very public way.”
The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area was authorized under federal law in 2009, with strong support from the state’s Rep. Bennie Thompson and Sens. 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.
As the first order of business, all National Heritage Areas — there are fewer than 50 nationwide — are required to complete a rigorous planning process once they are created. This process involves public meetings, surveys, interviews, and an inventory of heritage resources and results in the production of a formal management plan, a document that describes what the National Heritage Area will do, how it will be governed, and how it will pay its bills 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 July 8, 2014, when the National Park Service gave final approval to the management plan.
“The day will also serve as a way for the Delta to thank Dr. Luther Brown of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, who recently retired as director of that center and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and led us to this momentous occasion,” said Spencer Nash of the Delta Foundation, the vice chairman of the Heritage Area Board. “It will also be a time for the region to meet Dr. Rolando Herts, who will be replacing Dr. Brown.”
More information about the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, including the complete approved management plan, is available on its web page at www.msdeltaheritage.com.