MUSCLE SHOALS — A draft management plan for the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area was unveiled Monday night and is expected to be put into action this fall.
Once operational, the heritage area will help promote and preserve the cultural heritage of northwest Alabama, and work with tourism offices in six counties to attract visitors to the region.
An overview of the plan was discussed in a meeting at City Hall. Phil Walker, of the Walker Collaborative of Nashville, who is leading the plan’s development, said the plan will establish guidelines for helping preserve heritage sites and provide technical assistance to those working to preserve heritage sites.
In order to attract visitors, he said it is important to look at what we have in a different way.
“You have to step back and look at yourself through the eyes of a tourist,” he said. “They have an image in mind of what they are coming to see.”
It’s important, he said, for local governments to work with property owners to make the appearance of businesses compatible with that image. That can be done through zoning changes and even tax abatements for restoration.
“The downtowns are the backbone. That’s where the authenticity is,” Walker said. “You already have some great downtowns.”
Judy Sizemore, director of the heritage area, said the National Park Service appropriates money to heritage areas around the country annually. The average has been about $150,000 a year, and the appropriations require local matches, which can be made in the form of in-kind services, she said.
There are 49 national heritage areas. The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, which includes Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties, was created by Congress in 2009. It is the only one in Alabama.
The three areas of focus for the local heritage area are the Tennessee River, Native American history, and the Muscle Shoals music industry.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.