HPD uses online survey and public discussions to frame 5-year plan

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

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From the cover of HPD’s current Preservation Plan.

Beginning in July 2010, and again in February 2011, the SGA urged you to complete an online survey posted by Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division (HPD), which solicited public input in framing their next five-year historic preservation plan. The present version, Georgia’s State Historic Preservation Plan 2007-2011: Building a Preservation Ethic, will expire at the end of the year. It can be downloaded from HPD’s website here. Georgia’s HPD works “to achieve a greater appreciation and use of historic resources in the context of everyday life.”

In Issue 23 of Preservation Posts, available online here, the results are in. Dr. Karen Anderson-Cordova, HPD’s Environmental Review and Preservation Planning Program Manager, reports on the results of the survey and of public meetings held around the state. She writes:

The Historic Preservation Division (HPD) is in the process of updating Georgia’s statewide historic preservation plan that will guide our preservation efforts for the next five years (2012-2016). A critical component of this process is gathering public input for the plan. Our public participation strategy included a series of public meetings held across the state, and an on-line survey posted on our website and advertised through our electronic newsletter database, our Facebook page, and at our public meetings. Well, the results are in and we would like to share some of the highlights of what Georgians had to say. Further analysis of the public input results will continue as we draft an updated plan. A draft of the plan document will also be available on our website for public comment later this year.

She reports that HPD received 403 responses to the online survey, mostly from Metro Atlanta and northern Georgia. Here’s a sample question Dr. Anderson-Cordova comments on: Which preservation activities should the Historic Preservation Division give priority to during the next five years to protect historic and archaeological resources? And the answer:

The question listed 22 preservation activities that could be rated as either not important, somewhat important, important, or extremely important. The three preservation activities that received the highest average ratings were: (1) federal and state tax incentives for historic preservation projects; (2) funding programs (heritage grants and CLG grants); and (3) partnering with local organizations to preserve and enhance historic downtowns and rural communities. Other activities that received a high average rating included: (1) promoting preservation legislation; (2) heritage tourism; (3) survey to identify historic buildings and structures; (4) coordinating efforts with state, regional and planning agencies; (5) review of state and federal projects for impact on historic and archaeological resources; (6) historic preservation training and workshops and other preservation education activities; (7) strengthening Georgia’s preservation network and developing new preservation partners; and (8) assisting local historic preservation commissions. There were also 29 responses that listed other preservation activities as important: state stewardship of historic properties, developing school curriculum focusing on local historic resources, energy conservation and historic properties, and preservation of neighborhoods. It is important to point out that these additional activities also came up during the public meetings we had across the state.

Note that historic preservation issues relating to standing buildings eclipse those of relating to Georgia’s hidden archaeological heritage. The term “archaeological” doesn’t appear in the listing until #5 of the second tier of importance.

And, to the question, What do you consider are the most important preservation issues facing Georgia now and in the next five years?, Dr. Anderson-Cordova writes:

Not surprisingly in this period of economic downturn, one of the main issues expressed was the need for funding for all level of projects and the need to identify new funding sources. Many also mentioned specifically funding for HPD, state historic sites, and the regional preservation planners. Respondents also emphasized education about preservation, the need to focus on the younger generations to get them involved in preservation, finding better ways to balance development and preservation, demolition by neglect, training for local historic preservation commissions and local officials, preservation and sustainability, and the opportunity in the next four years to focus on the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Respondents also mentioned the preservation of specific resource types as significant issues: many mentioned the preservation of mid-20th-century resources, preservation of rural landscapes and communities, and vernacular architecture. Other types of resources specifically mentioned were: Native American sites, archaeological sites, battlefields, historic landscapes, cemeteries, and historic urban neighborhoods, specifically mill villages and African American neighborhoods.

Archaeological resources have a slightly higher profile here, although decreased funding at federal, state, and local levels, as well as in the private sector, suggests tough times in the coming years for archaeological preservation both within and outside of HPD.

The full story by Dr. Anderson-Cordova details more issues arising from preparation of HPD’s upcoming plan, which will be available online late this year.