SRPC honors LCHIP with annual excellence award

Cynthia Copeland awarding LCHIP with the annual excellence award

At the 2017 Strafford Regional Planning Commission Annual Meeting Executive Director Cynthia Copeland presented the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) with the annual award for excellence in stewardship of New Hampshire’s historical, cultural, and natural resources. Executive Director Dijit Taylor accepted the award on behalf of the organization. View the award remarks below:

June 22, 2017

We are blessed in New Hampshire, and specifically in the Strafford region, with an abundance of authenticity:  natural resources – coastal rivers, wetlands, forests, and wildlife; historic built environment – roads and bridges, homes, farm buildings, mills, downtowns; and a cultural  milieu –social events that celebrate community, diversity, seasons, and the joy of sharing through performing arts, athletics, and community suppers.

In 2000 Newmarket hired Strafford Regional to help its citizens create design guidelines for the redevelopment of their historic downtown. Late one evening a longtime resident stated his core truth about Newmarket: we are nitty gritty; we are not pretty.

In 2017 that is not how visitors and new residents see the town when they visit or move into their new home. They see beauty and authenticity; they want this experience in their lives.

Today that quest for authentic experiences drives tourism and residential purchases, and factors into commercial development and the relocation of tech businesses in the Strafford region.

In planning world, practitioners call this quality of life – a soft definition that is hard to measure but you know it when you see it, and people are willing to invest to have it in their lives.

Today we have heard from the leadership of a nonprofit, a state agency, and a state authority all of whom see cultural and historical resource protection and restoration as vital to the quality of life of New Hampshire. Those of us who have volunteered and worked in these areas for decades understand the vulnerable nature of these resources. Stories at the holiday table and an elderly neighbor’s recollections are part of our oral history. Generations are passing. Our built environment deteriorates or is no longer seen as useful. Trades and craftspeople are booked for months in advance.

We have a great strength in our state: the citizen volunteers and staff who support local committees and regional nonprofits, the citizens who fund restoration and conservation projects, who vote for conservation bonds, whose planning boards and local officials create tax increment districts, and whose property taxes fund municipal staff to implement these measures. Lastly, the state’s citizens overwhelmingly support an independent state authority that makes matching grants to conserve and preserve New Hampshire’s most important natural, cultural and historical resources.

This independent authority is known as the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).

Today, Strafford Regional Planning Commission announces that LCHIP is the recipient of the 2017 Excellence Award for the stewardship of the historical, natural, and cultural resources of New Hampshire.  This is an agency that models the same excellence that it seeks in its grantees.

Let us look at the LCHIP Board vision for 2050.

… we see a New Hampshire providing her citizens with protected lands, historic buildings, and cultural resources that combine to establish a sense of place that defines the character of our individual communities and our state and, through its natural beauty, ecological diversity, working lands, historic architecture and unique cultural resources, supports our economy and enriches the quality of life for all people who visit or live in the state.

To reach this vision, LCHIP seeks to achieve, both with its own resources and by setting an example which educates and supports others, the following goals:

Here is a sample of the Board’s goals:

  • All citizens treasure our natural and historic built environment
  • Every community has saved or protected cherished historic buildings or parcels of undeveloped land
  • Residential, commercial and industrial development is planned and implemented in a manner that sustains natural resources and protects historic and cultural resources

It sounds very familiar doesn’t it?  Your town master plan or a nonprofit’s strategic plan.  We are in this together, and we have made great progress since 2000. In the Strafford region the number of acres in conservation has more than doubled – from approximately 30,000 acres to 65,000 acres.

And what does our 2017 honoree see as encouraging?

  • A legislature that has shown an increasing willingness to support full funding of LCHIP through LCHIP’s dedicated fund
  • Better and better projects are applying for funding, especially on the historic resource side. The combined efforts of the Division of Historic Resources, the NH Preservation Alliance and LCHIP, historic preservation groups, and the small, all volunteer groups -together have a growing understanding of the importance of setting priorities and meeting the high standards set by the Secretary of the Interior

Hopes for the future?

  • LCHIP continues to support and encourage the efforts of local people and groups to preserve and conserve the resources that are such an important part of our communities and our tourist economy
  • The legislature is well aware of the importance of what LCHIP does both in individual communities and for the state as a whole, and never considers reallocating LCHIP’s dedicated fund
  • Citizens and legislators work together to identify the natural, cultural and historical resources that are most important to the state, providing LCHIP with an even clearer blueprint of what deserves to be protected

How is this complex relationship working at so many levels?

  • New Hampshire, as far as LCHIP has been able to learn, is the only state that has a state-supported program that protects both natural and historical/cultural resources through the same program. This unusual combination of resource interests provides the ongoing opportunity to work with a variety of partners who share LCHIP’s interest in protecting the very special combination of resources that define our state. [Our authenticity.]
  • LCHIP believes that our staff and Board work harmoniously with state agencies, applicants and grantees.
  • That said, LCHIP is aware that people are extra nice to them because they hold the purse strings.

Finally, what does it feel like to make that phone call to the new grantee?

  • It feels really good! LCHIP staff get to know many of the applicants and their projects during our site visits. Calling to tell them they will receive a grant is making their dreams come true.

By now it should be clear that our individual, municipal, and nonprofit visions are aligned with those of LCHIP and our panelists; that together we are doing excellent work achieving our shared goals; and that as a holder of purse strings, we could not have a state authority that does it better.  Our sincere appreciation to the dedicated and knowledgeable LCHIP staff who work with the applicants and grantees, and our recognition of the leadership provided by the executive director and LCHIP board who ensure that the enabling authority and vision are enacted to the letter and intent of the law.  Congratulations LCHIP for your excellent stewardship!