By: Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Citizens and public officials have successfully worked together to help protect America’s heritage, in no small measure because of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the Section 106 consultation process it created under that part of the law. Yet, Americans who are not familiar with the phrase “historic preservation” remain unaware that the places and communities they love and enjoy would be vastly different if the NHPA had not been in force for almost 47 years.
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and our preservation partners, such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, and state and tribal preservation officials, believe the 50th anniversary of the NHPA in October 2016 is an occasion to remind citizens that the cultural heritage sites and historic built environments enjoyed and appreciated by millions didn’t happen by chance.
Using a nominating process open to the public, the ACHP is collecting examples of successful Section 106 actions that have taken place since the NHPA came into being in 1966. The agency is building a portfolio of success stories that illustrate the range and impact of this important public preservation tool which has resulted in tens of thousands of historic places being preserved for the benefit of the nation and its communities, while still allowing worthy public works and other projects to proceed.
Section 106 was created due to recognition by concerned citizens, elected officials (especially mayors), the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other enlightened interests of the destructive effect of urban renewal and highway construction work on historic places in cities and rural regions throughout the country. Section 106 mandates that federal agencies consider the impact of their undertakings on historic properties before approving projects that could affect these important and irreplaceable places and resources.
One result is that some of the most important and historic places in the United States have been protected and enhanced to enrich communities and to benefit and educate present and future generations
Identifying these Success Stories means that preservationists and the public will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the NHPA in 2016 with greater awareness of these achievements and what we have gained as a nation. We build greater public awareness by sharing these Success Stories. We hope this effort will also help us build a more inclusive preservation program by emphasizing the great diversity of cultural and historic places that have contributed to and illustrate our nation’s story.
One of the first cases developed was Nine Mile Canyon (West Tavaputs Plateau) in Utah. This Section 106 Success Story focuses on the preservation of rich historic and prehistoric resources that are of great importance to the country. The case relates to how unique and irreplaceable properties were threatened due to dust created by energy development activities, and how various interests were brought together to find solutions to help protect this special place while allowing energy development to proceed.
There’s the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Fla., another illustration of the many ways Section 106 affects outcomes. The case involved unique but aging historic bridge that was imperiled by the need to improve transportation safety and capacity, and how local citizen concern and official actions came together to find a way to mitigate the loss of a historic structure by incorporating original elements into a new bridge.
Once upon a time, before the Section 106 process (and the ACHP itself) was fully formed, city and state officials and business leaders in New Orleans and Louisiana planned to build a section of a major multi-lane highway along the French Quarter severing the quarter from the Mississippi River waterfront, because they believed it would be a major economic and development benefit to the city. In one of the first iconic cases involving Section 106 after the NHPA was enacted in 1966, the plans to forever alter the nature of the French Quarter were halted by concerned and involved local citizens using this new historic preservation tool.
Read about Montford Point Camp (later renamed Camp Johnson) which survives to tell the story of the first facility built expressly for training African American Marines in 1942. Segregation was the established practice and policy of the time, and African Americans previously could not fully serve in the Marine Corps. Decades later, when the Marine Corps planned to build a new academic facility at historic Camp Johnson that endangered some of the original World War II structures, the ensuing Section 106 process helped raise greater consciousness about this important chapter in American history through an enhanced partnership between Camp Johnson veterans and the Marine Corps.
The ACHP hopes to get additional nominations from preservation organizations and citizens to further illustrate the success of Section 106 as an important tool for preservationists during the half decade of the NHPA. As is true of any Section 106 effort, this process is essential in giving tribal, state, local, and private entities a voice when federal undertakings may affect places important to them. Are you aware of a Section 106 Success Story? Tell us about it by submitting a nomination.
For more information about other cases highlighted from across the country, please visit www.achp.gov/sec106_successes.html.