Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oro Valley Historic Preservation Tries To Move Forward

In June, the Oro Valley Historic Preservation Commission issued a 2014 update to the 2011 "Oro Valley Cultural Heritage Preservation Plan."  Historic preservation can make a major contribution to Oro Valley's culture. Yet, for a variety of reasons, it has been relatively underfunded by our community during the past 4 years.

The report provides a road map for moving historic preservation forward:
"Among the most important aspects of historic preservation today," notes the report "... is ensuring that it is relevant to a community and will attract visitors—to learn about special places of the past, and to contribute to the overall economic sustainability of a community."
The report recommends actions in 6 areas of emphasis:
  • Public participation and heritage education is a set of actions to educate our community about existing cultural resources. This would include "On site tours of Steam Pump Ranch, Honey Bee Village Archaeological  Preserve,  the  CaƱada  Del  Oro  trail  and  historic  neighborhoods."
  • The historic Steam Pump Ranch " provides an excellent locale for developing a 'sense of place' for Oro Valley and holds economic viability as an educational facility, special event venue and heritage park."
  • Gathering and disseminating information on Oro Valley's historic neighborhoods. These neighborhoods include, but are not limited to "...Oro Valley Estates, Suffolk Hills, Campo Bello, and Shadow Mountain Estates."
  • Creating a centralize archive, a document "warehouse,"  for all historic documents. This would  include gathering documents from the town, the historic society and those who live in the community.
  • Implementing Oro Valley's environmental sensitive land ordinance as a "...basis for identification, evaluation, and treatment of known [culturally significant] sites as well as ones that may be discovered in the future."
  • Monitoring ongoing activities at the Honey Bee Canyon preserve.
The report suggest that some of the funding for these efforts come from yet to be determined partnerships.

We asked Oro Valley resident Bill Adler, an advocate of historic preservation, what could be done to move heritage preservation to a higher level on the Oro Valley priority list. He cautioned us.  Maintaining an historical site is expensive:
"Preserving history is expensive. Maintaining historical sites in an attractive and useable manner costs more than a new property. So, money for maintenance is a constant priority. Maintaining cannot mean "re building" because that loses the historic look, construction and content, and would cost the property its identification in the Register of Historic Places that is necessary for tourism,"
Nonetheless, he notes, there are things that are being done:
"Members of the Historical Society have been very diligent in providing other attractive exhibits on the property: a Heritage Garden formed and irrigated as the native Americans did hundreds of years ago; the creation of a pit house that is how native Americans lived during that period. And, the video of the Town, which captures accurately the native beauty of the overall landscape and the problems of a desert environment. During the June and July months a member of the Historical Society conducts a summer camp for small kids based upon the archaeological importance of the area."
Some of the commission's recommendations could be implemented at relatively low cost.  For example, heritage education could start, as the report suggest, with some brochures that describe Oro Valley's sites and their significance. Perhaps, it could continue with increasing tours.

Historical preservation requires a community commitment.  We wonder: How do you feel about it?

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