Missions prepare for World Heritage site visit
By Abigail Vega
An inspector from the World Heritage Committee will visit San Antonio this fall to examine the grounds where the five colonial missions stand. The visit may give San Antonio’s historical sites the opportunity for a place on the World Heritage List.
Susan Snow, archeologist for the Missions National Historic Park, coordinated the World Heritage application.
“The inspector will look at the grounds and make sure that what we wrote on our document is actually true. He will make recommendations whether the community has the capacity to resource the sites,” she said.
Snow predicts the city can expect $100 million in tourism revenue within 10 years, as well as $2-$3 million increase from the hotel tax because people travel the world to see World Heritage Sites.
She said this would create up to 1,000 new local jobs.
“Heritage tourism is really about local jobs that can’t be outsourced. You can’t move the factory elsewhere because what you’re selling is the culture of the area,” Snow said. “San Antonio has the potential to be a World Heritage city, not just the missions.”
The five missions — the Alamo, San Jose, San Juan, Espada and Concepción — can share their history and what their legacy means to the state of Texas, and City of San Antonio with other states and countries.
“It’s such a unique project, our missions are beautiful and they’re working — people go there, they go to church there,” said Virginia Nicholas, former president of the San Antonio Conservation Society. “The missions are very special, there’s not many things like them in this country.”
“San Antonio is spectacular, anyway,” she added.
The application process started in 2006, when the federal government asked in the Federal Register for communities to nominate natural and coastal areas in the United States.
The San Antonio Conservation Society formed a small committee to add the five missions on the tentative list. Any property considered for nomination remains on the tentative list for a year.
In July 2012, Ken Salazar, assistant secretary of Interior for Fish Wildlife and Parks, “gave the green light to prepare our formal nomination to go to the World Heritage Centre in Paris,” Snow said.
“The application was about 150 pages long; we received tremendous support, all the way to the Vatican,” Nicholas said.
They submitted the application in Paris on Jan. 23, 2012.
If voted on, this would be Texas’ first time making the list, celebrated with a summer 2015 inauguration. The missions could potentially find a place on among landmarks like YellowStone Park, Olympic National Park, Statue of Liberty National Monument, among the other 18 sites across the nation.
“It’s very political, and it’s still coming together. It’s been seven years now,” Nicholas said.
The World Heritage was created in 1972 in the United Kingdom to fortify the preservation of each country’s original landmarks in order to continue their unique stories and share their amazing history for generations to come.
For more information, visit www.missionsofsanantonio.org