We’re live at the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area workshop. We’re at the exhibit center, which is inside the Renasant Center for IDEAs.
The national heritage area is a federally-recognized region bordered by Highway 55 on the west, Highway 14 on the south, the Tennessee state line on the north and the Alabama state line on the east. The area covers 19 full counties and portions of 11 others in the northeastern part of Mississippi.
There are about 20 people here, include reps from MS Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, MS Corps of Engineers, Tupelo city planning, Tupelo CVB, Downtown Tupelo, De Soto County and Tishomingo County.
Disclaimer: I’m typing as people are talking. There may be typos. People also have a tendency to talk at the same time, so I can’t always hear everything.
And, I’m not typing every word. Think of this more as the highlights of the meeting.
Something doesn’t make sense? Corrections? Have questions? Ask.
The meeting started at 1:30.
Phil Walker of Nashville-based Walker Collaborative is leading the conversation. He’s going over his background information from before (what is a heritage area, etc.) A lot of this is a repeat from his presentation in June that we covered. Click here to read his report about the region’s strengths and challenges.
Today, the goal is to have breakout groups to discuss the various themes. Judge the validity of the themes on this criteria:
- Does the theme have significance to the region’s story?
- Are there substantial resources to interpret?
- How unique is the theme withing a broader national context?
- How inherently is the theme (degree of market appeal)?
- Freedom Arrives – Contraband camp
- Reconstruction and post-reconstruction – Hill Crest Cemetery, Union Academy
- Civil Rights – Civil Rights monument at Ole Miss
2. Civil War
- Clash of amateur armies – Iuka Methodist Church
- Quest for Vicksburg – Grenada Lake
- Play’s Final Acts – Brice’s Crossroads and Tupelo
- The idea of Appalachia meets Delta. A subtheme worth pursuing?
- Commercial architecture
- Worship, learning and governance
Should there be a 5th theme – Native American?
We’ve done inventory for all of these themes. Native American is more difficult because the people who know them are more covert because they don’t want them to be pilfered.
Lots of crowd discussion that there’s a lot of Native American history here – names of towns, creeks, battles, homes, trails, etc.
Crowd comment: I would put Native American before architecture theme. What if we combined Arts & Architecture?
Walker: We’ll come back to this in the breakout groups and Thursday when we present the findings.
Now for an economic update from Randy Gross:
In 10 years, you’ve lost 30,000 manufacturing jobs. You’ve got an opportunity to fill that void with heritage tourism.
You’ve got a lot going on here, but it’s hard for someone in California to understand what the Hills is.
(Carlie note: he’s doing a lot of the same presentation from June. We liveblogged that presentation. Read it by clicking here.)
More than one-third of your current visitors at the attractions are coming from within the hills – people from Tupelo visiting Corinth.
Some of your key markets:
- Dallas-Fort Worth
Five percent of your visitors are coming from overseas. Musical and heritage sites are very popular for overseas visitors. The visitor base at your attractions are very different. Visitors at Elvis Birthplace are very different from visitors at Brice’s Crossroads.
Participation in heritage areas have been slightly declining in past years. This is partly because school groups that used to visit a site now can look it up and “visit” it online.
25 percent of people visit heritage sites. After age 70, rates drop because of a decrease in mobility.
Survey data: The more educated a person is, the more likely he/she is likely to visit a cultural or heritage site such as a museum or historical home.
This heritage area has the potential to attract up to about 75,000 additonal visitors by 2017. Fastest support will be in art/design/music, then in history/Native American and then in science & industry.
Your events and festival audience is supposed to grow 9.5 percent by 2017. This potential grown is generated from outside the core areas.
Time to break up into four planning teams:
- Civil War
- Arts & Lit
Questions for each team:
- Key resources in heritage area for this theme to promote and interpret (historic sites, museums, districts, etc.)?
- Approach to preservation, enhancement and stewardship for resources?
- Key sub-themes and stories to interpet
- Approach to interpretation (tour routes, interpretative centers, interpretation mediums, etc.)
- Approach to marketing the theme and the MS Hills National Heritage Area
- Implementation strategies (management, funding, phasing, etc.)
The audience is breaking out into groups. It’s 2:40 now and they are planning to brainstorm for the next hour. Then, they’ll get back together and discuss some of their ideas.
The four consultants will take all the ideas and spend the next two days refining them and coming up with a plan. The plan will be presented at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the exhibit center. The meeting is open to the public. But, if you can’t make it, we’ll be here live-blogging it.
We’ve got to write some stories so we can’t stick around for the brainstorming, but we’ll be back Thursday with eager ears.
Questions so far?