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IMPACTS OF ALTERNATIVE A

VISITOR EXPERIENCE/INTERPRETATION/EDUCATION

A wide variety of interrelated Visitor information and activities would be available to interpret each of the lower Delta regionís basic story elements, and from existing tourist information centers visitors would be directed to the resources that best illustrate the regionís many stories. Dispersing visitors to the most appropriate resources would increase the effectiveness of any interpretive program, enhancing a visitorís understanding and appreciation of the region. By coordinating the dissemination of information and materials, the Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Partnership would ensure that visitors receive an orientation to the entire lower Mississippi Delta and the associated story elements, regardless of which tourist information center they visit. However, a major commitment of time would be required to visit even a majority of the sites related to most story elements, the interpretive program at many sites would be primarily limited to self-guided activities, and the quality of visitor experiences could vary considerably from site to site. In addition, the failure to sufficiently develop the interrelatedness of the lower Delta regionís many stories and resources could make it difficult for visitors to understand the complex cultural and natural evolution of the region.

The interrelated interpretation and educational opportunities available would increase and enhance the variety and quality of experiences available to both visitors and residents throughout the region. Enhancing the residentís awareness of their cultural and natural heritages would increase their pride in and appreciation of the regionís significant cultural, natural, and scenic resources. Increased appreciation for these resources could contribute to their long-term preservation.

RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP

Cultural Resources

The responsibility for preserving many of the Delta regionís cultural resources would primarily lie with interested state and local governments, organizations, and citizens. Preservation efforts could continue to be fragmented and uncoordinated, due to limited technical assistance and inadequate funding; however, the numerous cultural resource studies proposed, if implemented, would provide the information necessary to better manage and protect the resources and to properly evaluate impacts of proposed actions in future environmental analyses. All cultural resource studies would he conducted in association with the appropriate state historic preservation offices and other interested state, local, and private agencies and organizations, and in cooperation with appropriate landowners and residents.

Another potential benefit of the proposed cultural resource studies includes continuing ongoing consultations with Native American Indians and other ethnographic groups, which could identify strategies for preserving and safeguarding cultural significant sites and resources. Efforts could be undertaken to identify and document oral traditions, lifeways, genealogies, and the complex interracial and intercultural relationships of the regionís peoples, which are of ongoing significance to contemporary racial and ethnic groups throughout the United States.

Additional benefits could also accrue to those cultural resources that currently have no preservation efforts underway. The burgeoning information available regarding the lower Delta regionís varied cultural resources could result not only in increased visitation but also increased public awareness and appreciation of the resources, resulting in the encouragement of preservation efforts and possibly additional revenue for resource preservation. Higher levels of visitation, though, could eventually result in increased incidences of vandalism, more wear and tear on historic structures, or the overuse of adjacent grounds and landscapes, which could necessitate increased management of the visitor experience. The potential risk, however, is far outweighed by the potential benefits of preserving neglected and deteriorating resources.

Natural Resources

Under this alternative, new construction would he limited primarily to the installation of interpretive and informational signs, which would have minimal incremental impacts upon natural resources. Signs would probably be erected within existing rights-of-ways or previously disturbed areas.

It is unknown how many resource sites associated with the lower Delta region have the capacity to accommodate increased visitation without incurring resource degradation. For example, increased visitor use could result in both the compaction of nearby soils and destruction of adjacent vegetation. However, any adverse resource impacts to soils, vegetation, wildlife, and water and air quality would be minimal due to the relatively limited extent of land potentially affected and because many sites lie within existing disturbed areas.

With the exception of potentially partnering with public agencies or private landowners, there would be no additional measures to help protect or restore natural or scenic resources on either private or public land.

FACILITY DEVELOPMENT

Implementation of this alternative would not result in the development of new facilities.

MANAGEMENT APPROACH

The Lower Mississippi Delta Heritage Partnership, a broad-based coalition of state representatives and local and private tourism organizations, would work together as one coordinated group to initiate grassroots support for heritage tourism and resource preservation throughout the lower Delta region. Such constituency and consensus-building, if successful, would diminish the prospects of fragmenting or dissolving the partnership. It would also help ensure the long-term momentum of any proposed initiatives. The partnership would also allow for the more effective use of existing federal programs, by providing a focus for funneling money and energy that otherwise might he dispersed in different, and perhaps contradictory, directions throughout the region.

Because the partnership and its initiatives would be both funded and driven by a combination of public and private entities, all participants would need to be committed to seeing the partnership succeed and not driven for purposes of self-gain. The requirement of nonfederal matching funds would help ensure the backing of all participants. The estimated costs of implementing alternative A would be $500,000 per year for 10 years, or a total of $5 million.


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