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From Ozarks Preservation, Inc., and The West Plains Council On The Arts
Dear friends and neighbors,
As many of you know, our two local organizations, Ozarks Preservation, Inc., and the West Plains Council on the Arts, have been interested for some years now in seeking practical and affordable ways to document and conserve the heritage of our part of southern Missouri while also making apparent the connection between cultural conservation and economic development. We became interested in the possibility of National Heritage Area status several years ago because we believed that it might help us to achieve our goal of conserving the truly extraordinary culture of this region that we love and making it a basis for much-needed economic opportunity. We recently completed a feasibility study about the potential for a National Heritage Area here in the Missouri Ozarks, and a report based on that study is available online at www.wparts.org.
We were excited by the prospect that the feasibility study report would continue a genuine, civil, friendly conversation with fellow residents of the Missouri Ozarks about how to hold on to what makes this part of the country such a special place; how the many remarkable artists, craftspeople, local historians, and cultural practitioners who live here might be able to benefit more from their talents; and how the important stories that we have to tell can express to our nation what it means to be an Ozarker. Unfortunately, the conversation recently has turned in an unpleasant direction. Many of our friends and neighbors are troubled by the association of National Heritage Areas with the National Park Service, which, sadly, has had strained relationships with many residents of our region over its history here. Additionally, a number of rumors and misconceptions about National Heritage Areas have been circulating, and those rumors and misconceptions have caused many of our neighbors to become alarmed and angry. Because of such misinformation, many people are now understandably confused about what National Heritage Areas are and aren’t, what they do and don’t do, and why we think having one here is an idea worth considering.
We apologize to anyone who has been alarmed or offended. That was never our intention. In light of the situation that has developed and in a demonstration of our good faith in this effort, we have decided to redirect our attention toward opportunities to foster cultural conservation and economic opportunity that won’t necessitate the involvement of the National Heritage Area program and will rely as much as possible on private funding. We hope that this demonstration of our true intentions will help to mend and strengthen our partnerships with the many wonderful people and organizations with whom we’ve become acquainted in recent years. We look forward to further discussions about ways to cooperate on projects that will benefit our region. There are many potential cultural projects that would benefit from and build upon research that we’ve done over the past several years. We would like to discuss with you your good ideas about the preservation of your cultural heritage and see if we might work together to bring them to fruition. We sincerely seek mutual understanding and shared efforts toward the preservation of our exceptionally distinctive regional culture, many aspects of which are rapidly changing or disappearing.
We are always happy to visit with our neighbors and discuss our shared concerns. Contact us anytime at (417) 256-1813, email@example.com, or P.O. Box 339, West Plains, MO 65775. And please join us for any of the programs and activities in which we’re involved, including the 2011 Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival in West Plains. The third weekend in June is just around the bend!
Ozarks Preservation, Inc.,
Kris Norman, president
The West Plains Council on the Arts,
Paula Speraneo, president;
Matt Meacham, folklorist;
Kathleen Morrissey, project volunteer