Next week a renewed regional preservation effort will formally take hold when preservationists gather for a meeting in downtown Knoxville. Over 70 people showed up for the last gathering of citizens from across the region that was held in late January. As that meeting began, they learned Cormac McCarthy's childhood home was burning in South Knoxville. It was a tragic reminder of why the success of their efforts is so important.
The Nine Counties Preservation Alliance will meet on April 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the East Tennessee History Center to elect a board of directors and begin planning a regional preservation conference scheduled for September 18 and 19 of this year.
It's an effort that began almost nine years ago and is finally reaching a goal envisioned then by citizens across the region: Create an adequately staffed and funded regional historic preservation organization (the Preservation Alliance) to facilitate the preservation and reuse of historic structures and encourage heritage-sensitive development.
Back in 2000, when the Nine Counties. One Vision. planners took on the task of helping all of us think regionally, I had no idea historic preservation would turn out to be a priority for people across the region. It ranked right up there with Downtown Knoxville, transportation, economic development and other issues of obvious interest to East Tennesseans.
We met with people across the region and helped form the Nine Counties Preservation Alliance with representatives from Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane, Sevier and Union Counties. The Alliance met regularly and produced regional preservation conferences in Dandridge and Maryville with support from Knox Heritage staff. However, Knox Heritage's tiny staff was soon overwhelmed by the workload in Knox County and unable to provide the same level of support for the Alliance. It went dormant for a couple of years even though the needs in the nine county region did not diminish.
Last year Knox Heritage applied for and secured a three year Partners in the Field grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Robert Wilson Charitable Trust. It allowed us to hire a full-time staff person to provide preservation field services throughout the region. We hired Knoxville native Ethiel Garlington and he has been reconnecting the network of preservationists and interested citizens across the region over the last five months. The first step is reorganizing the Nine Counties Preservation Alliance, but he has a long list of work ahead of him, including providing:
- technical assistance for the Nine County Preservation Alliance to create a strategic plan that will increase the effectiveness of its advocacy efforts.
- techincal assistance for existing preservation organizations in order to make them more effective advocates and increase the level of services they provide in their communities.
- technical assistance for homeowners and developers of commercial and residential real estate.
- organizing activities in counties without a preservation organization in order to engage interested individuals and organizations in the creation of a preservation organization.
- an annual, regional preservation conference to provide educational and networking opportunities for interested residents, government officals and organizations.
- regular workshops in all nine counties to provide information on preservation tools and incentives.
- one-on-one assistance for local governments and officials interested in increasing preservation efforts in their communities.
- National Register nominations for strategic eligible properties.
- creation of publications and expansion of the Knox Heritage website in order to provide information and resources throughout the nine county region.
So, come on down and help preserve the best parts of our region. The meeting is open to anyone interested in joining our efforts. For more information, call Ethiel at (865) 523-8008 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.