West Chester Designated a Preserve America Community
West Chester was officially honored July 30, 2008, for its designation as a Preserve America Community in a ceremony on the steps of the Chester County Courthouse. Officials from the Department of Housing & Urban Development and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation were on hand to recognize West Chester. BID Board Director A. Roy Smith hosted the ceremony that included remarks from HUD Regional Director John Bravacos, Mayor Dick Yoder, County Commissioner Carol Aichele, State Representative Barb McIlvaine Smith, and State Senator Andy Dinniman. Following a brief tour of distinctive structures in the downtown, a reception was held at The Lincoln Room.
First Lady Laura Bush, Honorary Chair of the Preserve America initiative, recently designated West Chester as one of 608 Preserve America Communities, the first such community designation in Chester County.
"Preserve America communities demonstrate that they are committed to preserving America's heritage while ensuring a future filled with opportunities for learning and enjoyment," Mrs. Bush said. "This community designation program, combined with the Preserve America Presidential Awards and Federal support, provides strong incentives for continued preservation of our cultural and natural heritage resources. I commend West Chester and its leaders for their commitment to preserving an important part of our Nation's historic past for visitors, neighbors, and, most importantly, for children."
Mayor Dick Yoder received a letter of designation signed by Mrs. Bush, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Chair of Preserve America, that West Chester is now a Preserve America Community. The Preserve America initiative is a new White House effort to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of America's priceless cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the initiative include: a greater shared knowledge about the Nation's past; strengthened regional identities and local pride; increased local participation in preserving the country's cultural and natural heritage assets; and, support for the economic vitality of our communities.
Communities designated through the program receive national recognition for their efforts. Other benefits include appropriate use of the Preserve America logo on signs and promotional materials; notification to media, State tourism offices, and visitor bureaus; and listing in a Web-based directory to showcase preservation efforts and highlight heritage tourism destinations. West Chester is now also eligible to apply for grants under the Preserve America Grants Program administered by the Department of the Interior. These matching fund grants of $20,000 to $150,000 go on a competitive basis to heritage tourism initiatives, promotion and marketing programs, and interpretive/educational initiatives involving historic resources.
You are pioneers in this initiative, which shows just how proud the people of West Chester are of their city, State and their place in our Nation's history, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton said. Each community's unique and diverse stories are part of the larger chapter of American heritage, culture and values. It is by visiting and experiencing these special places that we have an opportunity to touch the past, and can best understand how the past touches us.
The Department of the Interior partners with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to administer the Preserve America Community program on behalf of the Office of the First Lady. For more information and updates on the initiative, please visit www.PreserveAmerica.gov.