After the recent approval of its management plan, the Poudre Heritage Alliance is now able to award more federal money to its local partners each year.
The management plan for the Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area took the organization three years to complete and to get its approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Kathleen Benedict, executive director for the Poudre Heritage Alliance, said. The plan’s approval in February has boosted the organization’s annual federal funding from $150,000 to $400,000, she said.
The Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area stretches along the Poudre River between Fort Collins and Greeley. It was created as a nonprofit 12 years ago and later Congress incorporated it as an official National Heritage Area in 2009, Benedict said.
“A heritage area is an area that’s been designated by Congress because it’s important to the nation for historical, cultural and natural-resource reasons,” Benedict said. “In this case it’s because the Cache la Poudre is the birthplace of water law.”
The organization works with local groups and governments on projects that educate people about the heritage area and also works to record the history of the area as it happens, Benedict said. For instance, the group documented the flooding on the river last year in its video archives to preserve the river’s history and raise awareness about it, she said.
“This is a community-driven, grassroots effort to preserve the heritage and culture of an area,” Benedict said.
The area is one of 49 in the country. Two others are located in Colorado: the South Park National Heritage Area and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. One more, the Canyons and Plains of Southeast Colorado, is currently working through the process of becoming a National Heritage Area.
Benedict said the work on the management plan was a volunteer-driven process that came from open houses and community meetings held over the past three years. Much of the work writing the plan was done by a city of Greeley planner, but Fort Collins, Windsor and Larimer and Weld counties all had a hand in the plan’s creation.
“It’s a way to bring federal money here and to provide programs all these municipalities and counties can tap into,” Benedict said.
National Heritage Areas are funded by the National Park Service, which breaks the areas down into one of three tiers, Benedict said. When an area is first designated, it becomes a tier one area and receives $150,000 in matching funds for local projects. After completing a management plan, an area is able to move up to tier two and is eligible to receive $400,000 annually in matching funds, so long as it’s able to prove it has fully spent its tier one funds for multiple years. Tier three, the final tier, enables an area to receive up to $1 million in matching funds each year.
“So that little book that you’re looking at is pretty valuable to us,” Benedict said, referring to the management plan. “It was worth the three years of effort, was it not?”
The Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area has set four goals in its management plan to guide which projects it will fund. Generally, groups approach the Poudre Heritage Alliance with projects they would like to work together on, and if it falls into one of the categories, the alliance can decide to provide matching funds for the project, Benedict said.
Some recent projects the Poudre Heritage Alliance has provided funding for include:
» $19,000 for the Town of Windsor Museum in 2013 for a redesign of its “Discovering Windsor: A Look Back, A Leap Forward” exhibit in Boardwalk Park.
» $70,000 to the city of Fort Collins for interpretive signs and kiosks discussing the river’s value within the heritage area.
» $15,000 for the development of a full-length documentary about Colorado water, titled “The Great Divide,” that is scheduled for release in 2015. Benedict said a section of film discusses the Cache la Poudre River in its explanation of the birth of water law.
» Bus scholarships with nearby school districts for transportation costs for field trips to the heritage area.
This year, Benedict said one project awaiting approval is a request from the Town of Windsor to prepare the planning documents to take over the Frank State Wildlife Area.
“We’re looking for national projects that encourage heritage tourism. We’re looking for local projects that do interpretation, and we’re also look for preservation-type projects that offer public access to the Cache la Poudre River,” Benedict said. “That’s why we have these open houses. We’re trying to reach out to people to get them to know who we are, so that they either start planning for or come up with interesting projects that meet our goals.”
Eventually, Benedict said the organization’s plan is to become self-sufficient in its funding, but to reach that goal the organizations needs donations from the community.
“The federal government has this money for us, but our future is to become self-sufficient,” Benedict said. “So we’re only going to have this money from the federal government as long as it takes us to get program in place to become self-sustainable.”
Donations can be made and more information is available on the Poudre Heritage Alliance’s website at www.poudreheritage.org.