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Could It Be That the Hudson Valley Heritage Plan is Actually Anti-Heritage?

An objective review of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Management Plan logically would lead to the conclusion that it is loaded with anti-heritage elements. Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster definition of heritage is "property that descends to an heir: legacy: birthright" and "legacy" means "inheritance." Any of the bureaucratic heritage programs that have been implemented over time appear to be short on respect, or even exhibit a disdain, for private property rights. This should become increasingly evident as this review proceeds.

The slick publication announcing the plan is obviously the product of a well-endowed consortium, making this writer whose creations are created with paper and pencil and transferred to white pages with black letters envious. The spacing of entries into this plan seems to suggest that there were no page limitations. This offers all sorts of opportunity for doodling, if the reader gets bored with the text.

On page one of the so-called plan it is noted that it was approved by Interior Secretary Gale Norton on April 17, 2002. She, of course, oversees the involved National Park Service. What her approval signifies is left to the imagination. Many on the right side had high hopes that she would initiate some sorely needed changes, but apparently the Secretary chooses to be a non-controversial figure, rather than endure the wrath of the environmental movement.

Page three is taken up by a three-line mission statement which is to recognize, preserve, protect, and interpret the significant cultural and natural resources for the benefit of the nation. Wow, what a charge. Are not these responsibilities already delegated to numerous governmental organizations at various levels? And, does not this provide a carte blanche to meddle in just about anything they so desire, including the individual and his property?

It used to be a general rule that any plan have a statement of problems and identification of needs. Nonesuch animal is to be found. Apparently such prestigious characters are not to be bound by such trivialities. It is to be assumed that at the present time the cultural and natural resources are grossly neglected?

The cast of characters is presented on page 5. Included are the top dogs of the State Departments of Transportation; Environmental Conservation; Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Agriculture and Markets; and Office of General Services. Then there are members of the Greenway Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley and Hudson River Valley Greenway. Obviously a well-balanced reflection of society except for representation of business and industry, private property rights groups, chambers of commerce, sportsmen, among many others. Incidentally, any mention of greens, greenways, heritage, corridors, trails, and the like should raise red flags for those concerned about preserving the traditional American way of life. This is unfortunate, but it has become a given. One only has to look at the track records throughout the U.S. of A.

The plan notes that the consortium's empire involves the ten counties on either side of the Hudson River from Albany to New York City comprising a grand total of four million acres. Does this have the taint of individuals and groups that have a lust for power, control, master planning, and social engineering?

Then comes the gem about traveling down the Hudson River and discovering people, places, and events that made America. Wait a minute. What is so unique about the Hudson Valley? This could apply to travels anywhere in the United States. But according to the plan this is what led Congress to recognize the Hudson River National Heritage Area, one of only 23 areas so designated. Give these people time and there will be many more declared, until they run out of space. Incidentally, are the people so oblivious that they need Big Brother to point all this out?

Back to basics — just what are the problems and needs that necessitate such intrusion? This applies not only to the Feds, but also state and local bureaucrats. How many qualifying sites — whatever their required qualifications might be — are not adequately recognized, restored, and preserved? If no real problems or needs are identified, this adventure might be a superfluous luxury, especially in times of ridiculously high expenditures and budget deficits.

In 1996 the National Park Service declared that the Hudson River Valley was the landscape that defined America. Undoubtedly, they did not mean that this was the only one. The Service has been shown to have an insatiable appetite and chances are that they have a horrendous list of landscapes in reserve, which they dream of exerting influence over. A case in point is the so-called Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, a proposal that reeks of the nationalization of another large chunk of New York State. And, it must be borne in mind that in the case of the Hudson Heritage Area it is not just the historic sites that are targets of control, but the entire ten counties. The language the consortium employs gives clues to the flimsiness of their case. For example: "The Heritage Area contains a variety of cultural and natural resources that are referred to herein as Heritage Sites because they are so important to the future of the Heritage Area." Is not this double-talk to the highest degree? Add to that, "As such the assemblage of these Heritage Sites represents the principle asset of the Heritage Area." Sort of goes around in circles, does it not?

Continuing along their flimsy vein, they state the requirements for becoming a Heritage Site. They are recognized as worth a journey, are open on a regular basis, staffed for interpretation, and have customary visitor facilities. Indeed, quite rigid standards. But, what does this have to do with history and heritage? And, these sound like reasons that suggest that they do not need attention.

Reference is made to the 19th Century struggle between the forces of progress and preservation. Obviously, the former are the villains and the latter are heroes. They suggest that such was energized by artists' and conservationists' appreciation of the environment. What is this nonsense? The artists in question did not just paint nature and please get away from the notion that conservationists and preservationists are one and the same.

It is claimed that the spirit of stewardship continues to thrive though the efforts of many including Scenic Hudson, Open Space Institute, Clearwater, Riverkeeper, and Hudson River Foundation. This is indeed disgustingly presumptuous. Are they suggesting that without them there would be no stewardship? If so, what arrogance and nonsense. How about a little balance, with some mention of the right side? Foremost are the millions of private landowners, who, believe it or not, created the heritage.

Then there is the statement that the sheer size and diversity of the so-called Heritage Area makes planning, management, and programming a complex undertaking. What does this have to do with anything? Are we not talking about sites? Does this suggest that this consortium is interested in creating a four million acre kingdom and becoming the masters, who socially engineer and control people's lives? This is what happens when you provide intrusive master planners a magic marker.

Then comes "The Vision." The plan is to lay the groundwork for celebrating the region through the 21st Century. Of course, it was never celebrated before, or maybe not in the politically correct way. The Heritage Area will create Heritage Area Trails. Up goes the red flag, for the encroachment that is sure to follow. Again, beware of those trails, trailways, corridors, and other gimmicks that suggest absolute control. Heritage tourism will subsequently be promoted. Do you suppose that some or many of the human residents prefer sleepy, little towns, with solitude in their backyards? Another vision is to have ten counties of people and places act as one Hudson River Valley. Wow, does this smack of goody-goody, intrusive, obnoxious master planning. And, are they really out to minimize diversity?

Resource protection and land management policies are to be coordinated in a viable regional plan. Obviously, the masters of the kingdom have drifted far away from the preservation of historic sites. The whole four million acres have become one historic site. Yes, it could be a grandiose empire. The residents and visitors will develop a personal appreciation for the cultural and natural resources and their related communities. Obviously, they do not possess such now, nor ever did. Only Big Brother and the elite can produce the feeling.

According to the plan the National Park Service recommended National Heritage status based on the exceptionally scenic landscape that has provided the setting and inspiration for the new currents of American thought, art, and history. And just what is the new current? In light of the plan's contents, it makes one shudder to think. Obviously, it represents a major departure from the traditional American way of life.

It is obvious that the time is long overdue for every citizen who might be impacted by the Heritage Area program, or other such monstrosities, to give serious thought to the implications. This includes every citizen of the great U.S.A. God knows where these paths and trailways lead. Is it not enough that an individual's property is already identified as part of a village or city, country, state, and nation without adding another presumptuous entity to dictate and control his personal holdings? And, do not let them say that everyone has a voice in deliberations.

Finally, the will of the people must be honestly and reliably measured and heeded. There is far too much control by special interests with the public-be-damned attitude.

Nate Dickinson
March 2, 2004

Email Nate Dickinson: rdickinson@nycap.rr.com

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