National Heritage Areas expand on traditional conservation approaches by supporting large-scale, community-driven initiatives that engage communities in heritage preservation activities. National Heritage Area entities, such as the local Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, collaborate with stakeholders to determine how to make heritage relevant to local needs and interests. These entities serve as catalysts for community and economic development.

In 2016 National Heritage Areas leveraged $45.5 million in cash and in-kind support to carry out heritage projects and programs, greatly increasing the impact of the $18.8 million in federal Heritage Partnership Program funding they received.

Partnerships are essential to National Heritage Areas. Through community outreach efforts National Heritage Areas engaged 1,929 formal partners and 5,000 informal partners in heritage area activities. Local communities benefited from 41,135 volunteers, these volunteers contributed over 660,401 hours for heritage area projects – that is a $14.6 million value.

National Heritage Areas fall under the National Park Service, which is a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. These entities utilize place-based, community-driven conservation efforts and preservation activities for economic development to preserve the country’s Heritage. In 2016, across the country, National Heritage Areas and their partners are reviving historic downtowns, preserving battlefields and industrial sites, and sharing the nation’s history through the arts.

Through the National Heritage Areas 211 historic sites and 10,442 acres of cultural landscapes have been preserved and maintained across the country. Locally, the Nassario Gallegos house in San Luis, the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center, the old Train Depot in Antonito, along with other archaeological sites, and historic buildings were preserved for future generations.

Each National Heritage Area contributed to a total of 72 community development projects, including streetscape improvement and art projects like the local mural restoration project in Conejos County.

Nationally, there were 80 collections projects, including the conservation of artifacts and the creation of oral histories through the Voices of the Valley project initiated by Dr. Benjamin Waddell (former professor at Adams State) and Victoria Martinez (executive director of Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area).

Awarding community grants is a large part of the work conducted by National Heritage Areas. In total 73 historic preservation grants were awarded in the amount of $1 million.

Conservation activities led by National Heritage Area entities and their partners improve air and water quality and support healthy ecosystems: 7,572 acres of land were restored and maintained via invasive species removal, replanting and toxic site clean-up. In addition, 44 conservation grants were awarded in the amount of $743,664. Through recreational projects such as land and water trails. National Heritage Areas are improving connectivity and accessibility, and creating more vibrant and healthy communities.

Community recreation, was also part of National Heritage Area work. In the past year 110 recreation projects were undertaken. For example, 395 miles of trails were maintained and 25 new miles of trails were developed. In addition, 50 recreation grants were awarded in the amount of $1.7 million.

It is also important for National Heritage Areas to educate current and future leaders. Through programs such as the Summer Junior Archaeologist Camp, which is a partnership between Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and History Colorado. National Heritage Areas and their partners are providing meaningful and inspirational connections to our nation’s heritage and exploring the qualities and skills of leadership.

There were also 198 educational programs offered, such as the Summer Latino Teacher Workshop. This workshop was a partnership between the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and CU Boulder. Local teachers were trained on how to create curriculum incorporating oral history videos about local culture and heritage. A total of 341 grants to support educational programs were awarded this past year, by all the National Heritage Areas in the amount of $1.2 million.

To learn more about the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit their website at