The Heritage Initiative goes to Washington

Danette Olsen Task Force member Danette Olsen recently represented the Heritage Initiative at meetings in Washington, D.C. 

Danette has been active in the Heritage Initiative Task Force since the beginning and enjoyed using theatre to bring emerging heritage themes to life through the Heritage Players, shown at right at a Regional Gathering in Hinckley, MN in November 2012.

After such a cold and snowy winter in the St. Croix Valley, my arrival in Washington D.C. on Sunday, February 2 for the Annual Meeting of the Alliance for National Heritage Areas (ANHA) had the added bonus of a 60-degree evening walk as I joined colleagues from all around the nation for dinner in Georgetown. I hadn’t been in D.C. for almost forty years.



The three-day experience proved to be a warm welcome to our nation’s capital in many ways with this new phase of learning as a volunteer of the Heritage Initiative Task Force.

The ANHA is now celebrating the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan signing the authorizing legislation which designated our country’s first National Heritage Area in August 1984: the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. Just five more heritage areas were designated over the ten years to come and now there are a total of forty-nine.

During the 2014 winter gathering of the ANHA, there were also Advocacy Week activities on Capitol Hill. After a full day of Alliance meetings on Tuesday, we left our conference hotel for a Congressional Reception hosted by Rep. Paul Tonka (NY) and Rep. Charlie Dent (PA). In addition to our hosts, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis spoke about the importance and impact of the Heritage Area program. The entire event certainly increased my pride that our Task Force holds such strong conviction in National Heritage Area status for the St. Croix River Watershed Region!

Capitol Hill 2.4.14The most rigorous and exciting day took place on Wednesday, when I was able to visit with staff members at eight of the ten Congressional delegates* whose districts are part of our proposed North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix National Heritage Area. It was a whirlwind experience, starting the day at the Hart Office Building where the Senate offices are located and then being escorted through the tunnels and tram system, underneath the Capitol, to the House of Representatives offices at the Rayburn and Longworth buildings. What an honor it was to share the story of our Feasibility Study process, provide an update about the selection of a Coordinating Entity, and ask that our members of Congress look forward to more information soon along with a formal request to support our efforts for designation as a National Heritage Area.

Heartfelt gratitude to the St. Croix Valley Foundation for making this trip possible. All along, SCVF has been instrumental in the exploration, discussion, and steadfast support of the Heritage Initiative. With a mission to advance the quality of life in the St. Croix Valley, the Foundation surely demonstrates this commitment in all they do on behalf of the Heritage Initiative!

* Huge thanks for accepting appointments go to the staffers of Senators Baldwin, Franken, Johnson, and Klobuchar and Represenatives Duffy, Kind, McCollum and Nolan!