The Planning Process
West Virginia might best be described as a rural state with a number of urban pockets. For economic purposes, the West Virginia Bureau of Employment Programs has broken the state inot rural and urban counties. Those that fall within metropoli-tan statistical areas, as defined by the United States Census (Kanawha, Putnam, Cabell, Wayne, Wood, Ohio, Marshall, Brooke, Hancock, Mineral, Berkeley and Mercer) are designated as urban. These counties have populations that range from 116 to 446 people per square mile. The remaining counties, which have anywhere from 10 to 93 people per square mile, are considered rural. This disparity became very apparent as staff traveled around the state to talk with our constituency. Typically we found that urban areas of the state are dealing with issues of develop-ment and sprawl while rural areas are suffering from a lack of development and resources. In each case, these issues present interesting challenges and oppor-tunities. With this in mind, we attempted to develop a preservation plan that would be flexible and capable of responding to a diverse set of needs.
Who We Talked To
In preparation for revising West Virginia’s five-year historic preservation plan, the office sought public input through a variety of methods. After announcing our intention to revise the five-year plan in our Details newsletter and on our internet web-site, the office began to compile the ideas and opinions expressed by our constituents in questionnaire responses, at workshops and public meetings, and during interviews, as well as through our newsletter and website. Lengthy staff meetings provided opportunity for SHPO personnel to express their opinions.
In November 1998, the SHPO spon-sored a statewide planning workshop that was facilitated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This presented an opportunity for interested individuals, representatives from federal, state and local agencies, professionals working in the field, and members of non-profit organiza-tions to come together to discuss the status of historic preservation in West Virginia. In addition to establishing a few immediate priorities, the workshop was useful in helping us assess the effectiveness of the current plan and in determining the need to create and implement a revised plan that will be accessible to our constituency statewide.
In the fall of 2000, the office sent questionnaires to more than 5,000 West Virginia residents. Mailing lists from a number of organizations were combined in order to contact as many people as possible as well as to attempt to procure comments from those West Virginians who may not already be a part of the historic preserva-tion community. The questionnaire asked people to identify strengths and weak-nesses of historic preservation, critical issues and threats, as well as preservation priorities. We also asked how this office could help further preservation goals in local communities across the state. Public response fell into eight categories. These were then used to generate a set of pro-posed historic preservation goals.
The proposed goals were presented in a series of public meetings held around the state in the winter and spring of 2001. A total of 11 meetings were held in various counties across the state. Meeting an-nouncements were mailed to our constitu- ents. Local officials, state representatives, and employees of state and federal agen-cies, as well as others, were encouraged to attend. In general, the meetings were well attended by a range of people involved in historic preservation. Comments proved to be very effective in helping the office deter-mine the public’s general perceptions about historic preservation as well as in identifying local issues, threats and needs. They also helped SHPO staff refine the proposed goals and generate objectives and implementation items to help meet those goals.
Finally, staff input was instrumental throughout the planning process. A number of meetings and retreats were held to discuss the variety of issues being faced around the state and to decide how best to address them. Staff reviewed and evaluated the effectiveness of its previous preser-vation efforts by examining the current plan and comparing it to end-of-the-year reports for 1996 to 2001. This allowed us to assess our programs and policies in light of both staff experience and public perception.