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It’s difficult to take a road trip anywhere in Arkansas without coming across a few places that are of historic significance. From Native American sites to Civil War battlefields, libraries, President’s birthplaces… there’s even a bus depot that has been recognized for its architectural importance.
Unfortunately, too many historic properties around the country have been lost to “development”. That loss of our nation’s architectural and cultural history led President Lyndon Johnson to sign the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) into law in 1966. Nine years later, the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH) was created to preserve and promote Arkansas’s unique natural and cultural heritage.
Under the original legislation, several state agencies were brought together to work cooperatively in one department called the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage. In 1985, the name was shortened to the current moniker. According to its website, the DAH coordinates preservation efforts and administers federal historic preservation programs in the state.
One of these programs is the National Register of Historic Places. The Register is an official listing of properties around the country deemed worthy of preservation. The Register itself does not offer any protection to the property, but being listed on the Register raises awareness in the community of a properties’ importance, and makes it eligible for tax credits and grant programs that can help owners and communities restore and preserve it for future generations.
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the NHPA, and to celebrate, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program is sponsoring the Arkansas National Register Passport Program. Through the program, Arkansans and visitors are invited pick up an official “Passport” from one of 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers located around the state (or you can request one by email), and collect a stamp at each of the 26 stamping stations set up in National Register-listed sites.
Participation is free, and completion of the passport earns each participant a commemorative coin or patch. The program is scheduled to end Dec. 31, 2020, so there’s no need to quit your day job to fill your passport. More information on the program, passports, and a listing of the sites can be found online at the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program website.
So, next time you’re making plans for an Arkansas road trip, be sure to grab a passport and add some historic sites to your itinerary – you never know what you might learn when you visit #AuthenticArkansas.
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