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The National Heritage Area program is causing quite a stir in the area, so much in fact that Douglas County has said it wants nothing to do with it. And Douglas County is not alone. Apparently several other neighboring counties have “opted out” of the program.
Is that a good thing? We’re not sure. But so many questions have been raised that it would seem the county commissioners have done the right thing to at least back off and see where this thing is going.
The Heritage area concept was initiated by the West Plains Arts Council for the apparent purpose of promoting the arts and culture of the Ozarks. Through this program, natural and man-made historic landmarks and even the way of life in 13 counties of the Ozarks can be preserved.
So, what’s the big deal? What’s the downside?
The downside is no one knows who to believe. It’s that “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” sort of thing.
In the opening statement of the National Heritage Area feasibility study, which can be read online at www.wparts.org, it says, “Nothing in this Management Plan shall be construed to require any private property owner to permit public access (including federal, state or local government access) to such private property. Nothing in this Management Plan shall be construed to modify any provision of federal, state or local law with regard to public access to or use of private lands.”
But opponents of the program – those who have been watching it closely with a guarded eye – say it has not worked out that way in other states.
It is said that once you get in, you can’t get out. Douglas County Presiding Commissioner Larry Pueppke said commissioners have researched the program in other states and responses have not been favorable.
But then Matt Meacham, West Plains folklorist and promoter of the Heritage Area program, says he has contacted county authorities in nine predominantly rural counties in other states and got a favorable report from each one.
“All of the officials with whom I was able to speak said that, to their knowledge, National Heritage Area status hasn’t had any effect on private property rights or local policy-making regarding land use or management.”
Once again, it seems to all go back to who you talk to and which side of the fence you’re sitting on.
For those who want to ask questions and discuss the issue in detail, there is a public meeting in Mtn. View tonight. The meeting is sponsored by the Property Rights Congress which has openly opposed the National Heritage Area from the beginning.
However, they have invited the folks from West Plains who initiated the project, and this should be a perfect time to ask questions and hopefully get some answers.
The Herald received a Letter to the Editor this week from Robert E. Moore, a Douglas County resident with a West Plains address.
In his letter, Mr. Moore (no relation to The Snoop), thanked the county commission for opting out of the “bureaucratic mess” that is going around, referring of course to the National Heritage Area.
He makes a good point when he says they (the Heritage people) can do as we in the Ozarks Older Iron Club do. We take things people donate to our cause and display them at our two shows each year. We’re not interested in putting restrictions on the rest of the community.
Let those who are interested in preserving old farm related pieces come and join us.
O.O.I.C. shows and tractor pulls are held in May and October in Cabool.
The Property Rights Congress has invited Meacham, Kathleen Morrissey and Kris Norman, from the West Plains Arts Council to attend their meeting in Mtn. View tonight. Also invited is a representative from Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office.
The PRC says a representative from the National Park Service was also invited, but declined the invitation.