Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988 Page: 30
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PRESERVATION NEWS IN TEXAS
At Big Bend
Park Resources Neglected
The Texas Historical Commission has
called for a comprehensive, 12-month survey of
the cultural and historical resources of Big
Bend National Park in West Texas. THC staff
made this and other proposals after concluding
a three-day round table discussion with park
officials from Big Bend and the Southwest
Regional Office of the National Park Service in
The 740,000 acre park contains numerous
cultural and historical resources, including
many prehistoric sites dating from 10,000 B.C.,
when nomadic people hunted mastodons and
mammoths, to the 1500s, when the Spaniards
arrived. Archaeological evidence of these nomadic
people can reveal the vast changes that
the area and its inhabitants have undergone,
according to Robert J. Mallouf, State Archeologist.
The area is also rich in historic resources,
such as the remnants of scores of adobe
buildings used by farmers, the U.S. military,
and other early settlers. These remains, as well
as other significant historic and prehistoric
sites, are rapidly deteriorating due to neglect
and poor management.
The comprehensive cultural and historical
survey would identify, evaluate, and interpret
previously undocumented archaeological sites
and provide resource managers with a better
concept of how natural and artificial conditions
are currently affecting the region.
Other goals outlined by the THC include a
revision of the existing management plan to
include specific mechanisms for addressing
resource protection and maintenance. THC
staff also recommends that a stabilization program
be developed to prevent further deterioration
and the eventual loss of several adobe
buildings, the historic Mariscal cinnabar mine,
and other significant structures.
Another proposal calls for expansion of the
park's interpretive functions through adaptive
reuse programs for structures and landscapes.
Adobe brick making also could be a part of this
program, serving to keep alive a dying art and to
supply the park with bricks for maintaining its
quickly disappearing adobe structures.
Finally, the THC recommends that park officials
work to nominate the entire park to the
National Register of Historic Places. This designation
would enhance interpretive programs,
facilitate resource management, and protect the
resources for future generations, according to
"Cooperative development and coordination
between the THC and the NPS is imperative if
any of these proposals are to be accepted and
successfully implemented," Bartholomew said. If
the NPS accepts the THC's proposals, survey
work could begin by January 1989.
A needs assessment conducted last fall by the
Texas Historical Commission and preservation
volunteers across the state indicates that upwards
of 254 historical sites in Texas are in need
of some type of renovation work, reflecting an estimated
cost of $106 million.
The assessment, initiated by the THC as part
of a nationwide effort to document for Congress
the importance of restoring federal rehabilitation
grants, reflects less than 10 percent of the
state's overall preservation needs, according to
Stan Graves, deputy state historic preservation
officer. Projects could have been excluded because
of the varying resources of county volunteers
and the deadlines to get information collected.
Of the total number of properties surveyed,
only 55 are protected by ordinances; 96 are listed
on the National Register of Historic Places; 126
are privately owned; and 110 are publicly owned.
Properties include county courthouses, homes,
If federal rehabilitation grants are reinstated by
Congress, properties such as the Blackstone Hotel
in Fort Worth and Fort Travis in Galveston
County will benefit.
bridges, schools, cemeteries, and post offices.
Some of the project needs listed in the
survey include $13.8 million for extensive refurbishing
of the Old Red Courthouse in Dallas;
several million dollars for restoration work
aboard the USS TEXAS battleship, docked
near Houston; $75,000 for repairs to the Ysleta
Mission in El Paso; and $2.5 million for the
renovation of the threatened old county courthouse
in Corpus Christi.
Graves believes the survey will show policy
makers at the federal level the need to reinstate
the rehabilitation grant program. Before it was
discontinued in 1981, the program assisted in
the renovation of many Texas landmarks. In
1978, for example, $1.5 million in matching
grants was awarded to 57 properties statewide.
These funds went to National Register property
owners, both public and non-profit. In return,
the THC received a deed covenant ensuring
the continued maintenance of the properties.
Results of the national historic property
needs assessment survey are being presented to
congressional leaders for consideration. In
Texas, the information now forms a significant
part of the THC's data base, which is used to
monitor the state's historic resources.
For a summary of the survey results, contact
the THC, P. 0. Box 12276, Austin, Texas
78711, (512) 463-6094.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988, periodical, Summer 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45434/m1/30/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.