What Is a Heritage Park?
Protecting Resources and Supporting Living Traditions
A heritage park is a relatively new idea that combines cultural conservation with nature conservation by encouraging local citizens to participate in the planning and preservation of their lands. A heritage park is three things: Regional Identity, Community and Planning.
A heritage park is a place where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These areas tell international and nationally important stories about us and are representative of experience through both the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved within them.
—U.S. National Park Service
Throughout the world there is a growing movement to create National Heritage Areas where local citizens have successfully initiated conservation plans to protect and sustain everything from historic farming practices to scenic mountain villages. By committing to the protection of both the natural and cultural resources, these areas play a vital role in maintaining the physical character and cultural legacy of the region, and the national identity of the country as well as being important to understanding human development throughout the world. The success of a heritage park depends on the participation of individuals and communities in the region.
The Parrhasian Heritage Park is a name that associates important historic, archaeological and natural features within the context of culture, tradition and geography:
- Fosters pride and stewardship.
- Encourages connections to local history and place.
- Supports continuation of cultural traditions.
- Promotes interest in the region and invites tourism.
The success of a heritage park depends upon the participation of individuals in the region:
- Working together towards the social well-being of the region.
- Collaboration between local and national governments.
Strategies that work towards the highest vision of health and prosperity for the region:
- Natural resources—Protect nature while balancing with human needs.
- Cultural resources—Recognize customs, foods, and handicrafts unique to the region.
- Archaeological resources—Protect the irreplaceable national heritage.
- Recreational opportunities—Promote enjoyment of resources for health of mind and body.
Purpose of the Park
- To protect the unique vernacular features of the region that have developed over time to exemplify the Greek agricultural landscape.
- To preserve and provide access to the areas of outstanding natural beauty found in the area, such as the Neda River gorge.
- To highlight and protect significant archaeological sites including: the first Greek sanctuary to be recognized on the World Heritage List, the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai; one of the famous Pan-Hellenic sanctuaries, Mt. Lykaion, that features the only visible hippodrome in the Greek world, and an altar that may have been used over 5,000 years ago in the Sanctuary of Zeus.
- To allow citizen and government collaboration on planning to share their concerns about localized needs.
- To encourage economic growth associated with tourism, bringing an estimated one million new visitors to the area.
- To establish guidelines for managing change in the region.
- To protect the integrity of the existing cultural and natural landscape.
- To support the traditional culture that exists in the modern day.
Purpose of a Heritage Park
Protect the Longevity of Resources and Guide Community Development
In the Peloponnesos, the landscape has been a strong determinant in shaping local culture. Over time, communities build their heritage from the natural, cultural, social, and economic components that reflect the stable but ever changing interrelationship between people and the land. Today, new and rapid change is affecting communities throughout the world with all the benefits and consequences of a globalized market. As change occurs, the creation of a heritage area offers an innovative method for citizens, in partnership with local, state government, academic, nonprofit and private sector interests, to shape the long term future of their environment using their own values as the catalyst to protect the land. These values come from a long relationship with the landscape and are born out of a need for longevity—longevity of resources, settlement, and social traditions.
Communities across the three prefectures of Arcadia, Elis, and Messenia have expressed a strong interest in working together to protect local resources to promote tourism to bring economic benefit to the region. Over the last five years, they have been collaborating with a professional group of planners, archaeologists and geologists interested in preserving the internationally important archaeological sites located throughout the region. These communities seek to work closely with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Public Works to establish the Parrhasian Heritage Park.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does a Heritage Park Work?
Local citizens and business owners partner with local and national governments to create strategies for resource conservation, community revitalization and economic development projects. A public commission or non-profit corporation is established to guide community-centered decisions and oversee park programs. Participation in projects and programs is always voluntary, with land ownership remaining under the jurisdiction of local governments and citizens. The role of the national agencies is to provide technical, planning and limited financial assistance to the park.
What Are the Roles of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Foods?
The role of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is to guide the technical and planning needs of the park, and provide leadership to encourage the fulfillment of park goals. It acts as a partner and advisor, leaving final decision-making in the hands of local people and organizations. This partnership allows the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to further its core mission to protect and promote the legacy of Greek heritage and to control the use of the area for touristic purposes. The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Foods oversees the quality of the agricultural development and the regulations that control the use of land within the park for agricultural purposes.
How Is a Heritage Park Different from a Typical Park?
The land is a mixture of government control, local ownership and nonprofit groups (land trusts). Land trusts manage land on behalf of the public and advocate for park resources. The involvement of the Greek government is dual, part landowner and part major advisory body, and all parties make and carry out management decisions. Governmental and international partners will work with local community members to plan and implement activities that emphasize heritage-centered interpretation, conservation and development projects.
How Will People Living in the Park Benefit?
There are both tangible and intangible benefits. There is a focus on community pride in its history and traditions, and the encouragement of residents’ stewardship in retaining and interpreting the landscape for future generations. Educational and inspirational opportunities will encourage visitors and economic development will occur in the form of cultural tourism, local museums, festivals and visiting university groups. Most importantly, the park offers a way to protect a lasting legacy that balances between resource protection and economic development through tourism.