WASHINGTON – Dorchester County was named one of the first Preserve America communities in the country Thursday in a White House ceremony that recognized eight communities for their commitment to protecting their historic heritage.
First lady Laura Bush also announced Thursday that the president’s proposed budget for fiscal 2005 will include $10 million in grants to help communities in preserve both their cultural and natural resources.
Home to the Underground Railroad Museum and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a major portion of Dorchester County is already a part of a Maryland state heritage area known as the Heart of Chesapeake Country. Dorchester officials said they applied for the Preserve America designation in December.
“We’ve been holding our breath for month,” said Natalie K. Chabot, director of Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area.
She and Dorchester County Council member Glenn L. Bramble accepted the honor from Bush.
“I am somewhat overwhelmed and I’ve always been optimistic of our county’s potential,” Bramble said.
The designation does not confer any special benefits on the county, but Bramble and Chabot said they were pleased to be honored. And Chabot hopes that the county will be a step ahead of others in the competition for a piece of the $10 million for historic preservation that Bush will include in his budget.
“I do believe this designation helps us. It’s an opportunity to enhance and promote our heritage programs,” said Chabot.
Preserve America is a White House initiative, launched in March, to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of the country’s cultural and natural heritage.
“It is vital for young people to know their history . . . an understanding of our past is essential for our future,” the first lady said.
John Nau, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, said the winning communities share three traits.
“All of them feature committed local governments, committed citizens, and committed private businesses,” Nau said.
The designation was based on the winning communities’ commitment to protect their historic heritage, including how they used their historic assets for economic development and community revitalization.
Besides Dorchester, the other communities honored were Augusta, Ga.; Castroville, Texas; Delaware, Ohio; Key West, Fla.; Putnam County, N.Y.; Steamboat Springs, Colo.; and Versailles, Ky.