Let us talk about National Heritage Areas, in particular about the Nebraska Kansas Heritage Area Partnership (KNHAP). I have a few questions:
Why 49 counties? 5 of those counties are already in another National Heritage Area. Why the overlap? Looking at the plan produced by the Architecture Department of the University of Nebraska, under the Landscape Planning Professor Kim Wilson, it looks to be all about Red Cloud, Nebraska. I admit, Red Cloud is a neat and historic town. So, why the other 48 counties? If Red Cloud wants to be a Heritage Area, they should have the right to do so. Do they have the right to pull in other counties? Without their knowledge? From another state?
It is illegal for National Heritage Areas (NHA) to infringe on personal property rights. Yet, since helping to build awareness on KNHAP here in Kansas, I have been getting a lot of calls from people living in that other National Heritage Area here in Kansas. The most common question I get is “Is this why my county is now creating zoning where we have had none before?” That question is always followed up with “Why wasn’t I notified about the National Heritage Area I now live under?”
In the same law that requires NHAs to not affect personal property rights, is another law. That law requires that the NHA be self-sufficient within 15 years. Of all the National Heritage Areas that are older than 15 years, I cannot find one that is self-sufficient. Every one that I have found, is still funded by Congress.
What do National Heritage Areas do with the money? How do NHAs help or enhance current market establishments? Will they participate in car shows? Fairs? 4- H? High School football games? Local restaurants and hotels? Concerts? How does Kansas Nebraska Heritage Area Partnership intend to split that $750,000 a year between 49 counties? Will the partners and stakeholders be the only benefactors of taxpayer dollars?
Who are the stakeholders of National Heritage Areas? Who are the Stakeholders for Kansas Nebraska Heritage Area Partnership? Not one citizen can request information from a NHA through the Freedom of Information Act because NHAs are not government agencies. Which is odd, given that their management plans must be approved by the National Park Service under the Department of Interior guidelines.
The NHA has to be passed by Congress before a management plan can be considered. What will that management plan look like? Who will ensure that the management plan is being followed? How many of the managers are elected officials residing within these 49 counties of the Kansas Nebraska Heritage Area Partnership?
What penalties will citizens living within the NHA endure should they fail to preserve heritage? Who is threating the local heritage? What is the local heritage? Does the National Park Service do a better job at promoting local heritage and tourism? If so, why does everyone go to the oceans, to the mountains or to theme parks?
These are some of the questions property owners and people who depend on earning a paycheck in order to pay their bills should consider before embracing a National Heritage Area. I have considered these questions and I don’t even live in a National Heritage Area. I live next door to one. Not realizing that only Congress can change national borders, such as the borders of National Heritage Areas, my county commissioners attempted to join an NHA that borders our county line. They passed that resolution for citizens in my county about the same time they considered regulations that would ban livestock fencing in the entire county. They also tried to zone everything outside of the city limits as a park. How much money was my county promised?
We do have a heritage here in the Flint Hills of Kansas. We are livestock producers. Regulating us out of business is not protecting our heritage.
Lyon County, KS