Last week, Senator Herb Kohl and Congressman Steve Kagen introduced legislation to establish the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway as a National Heritage Area. The proposed Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway runs through parts of 15 counties throughout Wisconsin and marks the path of Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet's exploration through Wisconsin to the Mississippi River.
"The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway highlights a key portion of Wisconsin history that needs to be preserved for future generations. The development of the Mississippi and the West was due in part to the work of Marquette and Joliet, and it would be a shame for this piece of history to be lost as the years go on," Kohl said.
"As Aldo Leopold taught us, there is no separation between Mankind and our natural environment, and it is therefore our duty to preserve the environment we enjoy today for future generations. The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is not just an important piece of the Wisconsin landscape, but a key part of American history, and protecting this route of exploration in its natural form is essential," Kagen said.
The National Park Service defines a National Heritage Areas as:
" places where natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These patterns make National Heritage Areas representatives of the American experience through the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved in them. These regions are acknowledged by Congress for their capacity to tell important stories about our nation. Continued use of National Heritage Areas by people whose traditions helped to shape the landscape enhances their significance."
The National Heritage Area (NHA) concept was created in 1984, with the goal of preserving our national history and resources, and telling a unique story about American history. There are currently 49 NHAs, though none are located in Wisconsin. Unlike a National Park, a NHA is not managed by the National Park Service, and no land exchanges are made. Instead, the NHA designation serves as a structure for residents, non-profit organizations and businesses to work together on education and conservation of the historic resources of the area.
The proposed Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway NHA includes approximately 1,400 square miles of land in 15 counties in east, central and southwestern Wisconsin, including Brown, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green Lake, Iowa, Marquette, Outagamie, Richland, Sauk, Waushara, and Winnebago counties. This area was chosen to tell the story of Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet and their voyage in 1673 from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi River, the results of which helped establish European settlements in the Mississippi River Corridor.
National Heritage Areas can only be designated through an act of Congress; accordingly, like other acts of Congress, the bill introduced last Friday must pass the House and Senate and be signed by the President.