Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen said Monday she is "not giving up" in her drive to get St. Croix designated a national heritage area, despite the proposal being omitted last week from the Omnibus Territories Act of 2013 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Christensen made the comment Monday when announcing the Virgin Islands Park Service has received a historic preservation grant from the National Park Service.
The grant was one of 59 allotted to the states, territories and District of Columbia. Each entity received $228,458 from the grant program conducted by the U.S. Department of Interior.
Christensen said the grant will help the territory preserve and protect historic sites.
States and territories may use the funds on a broad range of projects geared towards preservation, Christensen said in her news release announcing the grant. "These may include surveying and inventory to historic place nominations and preservation education."
Christensen noted that the Park Service’s website said the grants encourage local governments "to use such important tools as the National Register and National Historic Landmark programs, the tax credits for historic preservation, and the historic documentation programs to preserve and revitalize their historic resources."
That’s all well and good, the delegate said in a short phone interview with the Source, but designation of St. Croix as a National Heritage Area would have gone much further in bringing direct economic benefits and promoting the territory.
The grants announced Monday will allow recipients – including the V.I. National Park – to document and catalogue cultural and historic areas. But if – or when, as Christensen said – St. Croix receives a National Heritage Area designation, there will be an immediate, direct benefit.
Federal money becomes available to help get the program under way, she said, as much as $1 million a year for 10 years. The designation would aid the tourism industry, support existing businesses and help create new ones she said.
Christensen said she doesn’t know yet why the Senate committee omitted the designation from the omnibus bill, but it’s not because the program is not supported. There are already 30 national heritage areas designated throughout the United States, she said, and that means there are a lot of lawmakers from both parties who have reason to back the program.
Christensen said she has been working on the project for a dozen years and doesn’t intend to give up now.
"It’s one of my pet projects," she said. "I’m not giving up."