Yuma Crossing executive director

Lowell Perry Jr. is ready to hit the ground running as the new executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. He succeeds Charles Flynn, who is retiring in two weeks after almost two decades at the helm.

The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area has received the support of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors in asking Congress for more funding and re-authorization of their status as a National Heritage Area.

The item was part of the board’s consent agenda at its Monday meeting.

Since 2000, the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area has been part of the Department of the Interior’s National Heritage Area program.  That in turn entitles YCNHA to annual funding from Interior’s National Park Services, which requires a match from public and private organizations.

However, the number of National Heritage Areas has more than doubled since 2004 to 55, yet the funding has increased by only 33%, according to statistics from YCNHA. Perry said this threatens the survival of YCNHA, which is why he asked for Yuma County’s support.

“It would be criminal if a lot of these things protected by our heritage area went away because we couldn’t protect them,” YCNHA Executive Director Lowell Perry Jr. said.

Each year, National Heritage Areas generate an average of $5.50 in public and private funding to match each federal dollar the DOI and NPS gives them. Perry said that the YCNHA generates a little more than the $5.50 average. “We’re a great return on investment,” he said. “And we want to keep doing that.”

Perry said he wants to use the money to maintain and improve the areas that are part of the YCNHA, including the Ocean to Ocean Bridge, the Yuma Territorial State Prison, the Colorado River State Historical Park and the Yuma West and East Wetlands, among others.

“It would be very beneficial to us here in Yuma,” he said. “Our vision moving forward is to serve as a backbone organization to making Yuma more of a destination rather than a gas stop between San Diego and Phoenix.”

Perry said he plans to use the money for infrastructure that needs to be done in and around some of the parks like the Yuma Territorial Prison and the Colorado River State Historical Park. He also wants to “invest in more interactive education and technology to enhance the experience and keep people coming back.”

“We invite anyone in the community interested in protecting and maintaining to participate and support us,” he said.

To maintain the YCNHA and make sure the money is being used wisely, Perry has drafted a letter signed by the Yuma County Board of Supervisors and aimed at the desk of every member of Congress to support the National Heritage Area Act of 2019.

This act would increase the amount of annual funding for all 55 NHAs to $32 million, which would mean $700,000 for each individual NHA, and create a process to review each National Heritage Area to make sure they’re using their money appropriately. Perry estimates that YCNHA and other parks are currently receiving about $350,000 annually.

YCNHA also asked for support from the board of supervisors to renew their National Heritage Area designation for another 15 years starting in 2021 and lasting until 2036. The sites in Yuma that are part of the current YCNHA received their original designation on Oct. 19, 2000.

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