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Preservation Begins at the Local Level

The legal power to protect historic resources in Kentucky rests primarily with local governments. Many persons wrongly assume that the federal and state government protects historic resources and that listing in the National Register of Historic Places prevents demolition of historic resources.

That is why it is so important that citizens concerned about the preservation of historic resources in their communities give serious consideration to adopting a local historic preservation program. Irreplaceable historic and prehistoric sites are lost forever when local governments and individual citizens fail to recognize the historic significance of these resources and their valuable contribution to the distinctive character of the community.

The Kentucky Heritage Council assists local governments with the design and implementation of preservation programs. The success of a local historic preservation program, however, depends entirely upon local citizens transforming themselves from grassroots advocates to preservation activists.

Effective local government preservation programs have several common components. While adoption of any one of these activities is beneficial to a community, the most successful local preservation programs have adopted all of these activities and incorporated them into their overall plans to enhance the quality of life for their community:

  • A survey of historic and prehistoric resources.
  • Preservation planning.
  • A historic preservation ordinance.
  • Public education.

An emphasis on historic and architectural zoning for contemporary use enables planners, developers, architects, historians, land owners, and citizens to derive a sense of protection yet still retain the structures as vital, functioning parts of the community.

Local governments that have developed an effective preservation program and that meet certain qualifications can apply to become Certified Local Governments (CLGs). As the state historic preservation office (SHPO), KHC provides technical assistance to help communities develop and maintain successful preservation programs. Information regarding preservation planning is also available through the National Park Service Historic Preservation Planning Program.

Another source of information for local preservation programs is the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, a membership organization for persons and entities seeking to promote the activities of preservation commissions.

To develop any effective historic preservation plan, it is essential to know what historic resources are found in your community. Kentuckians have long shared the sentiment that such resources have value and should be retained as functional parts of modern life as they give a community or neighborhood its special character and cultural depth. Historic resources can also contain information that provides unique insight into a community's past, and help answer broad questions about history and prehistory.

A history resources survey can help identify and evaluate historic resources. A survey serves as a permanent written and photographic record of all known historic buildings, structures, and sites in the community (surveys of landscapes and archaeological sites may also be included). A survey provides:

  • A record of physical characteristics, historic accounts, and locations of historic sites.
  • A basis for making sound judgments in community planning for historic resources.
  • Data for use in the publication of local architectural and cultural histories.
  • Assistance in evaluating and determining eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.

Learn more about KHC's Kentucky Historic Resources Survey program for information concerning individual or comprehensive surveys.

See also National Register Bulletin #24, Guidelines for Local Surveys: A Basis for Preservation Planning.