National Heritage Areas

Images from Erie Canal, Yuma, and Hudson Valley NHAs


Charles Flynn

yuma crossing riverfront
Yuma riverfront with East Wetlands in the background, Spring 2009

yuma crossing after
Hilton Garden Inn with Yuma Quartermaster's Depot to its right, Spring 2009

Interview with Charles Flynn, Executive Director
Yuma crossing National Heritage Area

May 31, 2009

As someone who has been involved in the Heritage Area Program on both the state and national level, how do you perceive it has evolved over 25 years?

I have been involved since 1994. Back then, National Heritage Areas were an exciting but fledgling concept. They mostly focused on revitalization of areas with historic industrial sites in the Northeast and Midwest. It is now a national movement, with a broader range of themes, representing most parts of the country.

How has designation as a National Heritage Area changed your region? Your community? Your area's landscape?

Yuma struggled for 30 years to reconnect with the Colorado River. This desert community had very little access to the water, which just made no sense. Now, ten years later after National Heritage Area designation, we have built two large riverfront parks, restored 400 acres of wetlands just east of the city, and have now opened the $32 million Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center-- the first private investment on the river since 1930.

Please give an example of one activity/event/item produced by your heritage area that you are most proud of?

Reclaiming the riverfront and changing the image of Yuma from Interstate 8 -- the front door of the city. (see photos at left)

Do you think the heritage area model of land stewardship is one that holds potential for the future? Why?

I believe the Heritage Area model is the future for land stewardship. It relies on consensus-building and voluntary participation, instead of government control and/or compulsion. Its' partnerships create great efficiencies, as a small amount of NPS funds leverages a tremendous amount of local, state, and private investment.

Describe your experience with National Heritage Areas in one word.