How community resilience can be strengthened via historic preservation

Resilience has become an important planning goal for state and local government, providing a policy arena in which to integrate historic preservation and disaster mitigation, but significant questions remain about that relationship.

There has been no study of coordination between preservation and hazard mitigation planning at the state level, and there is no widely available methodology for assessing the flood exposure of historic resources. In this study, we use mixed methods to address these two issues. We evaluate the degree to which state historic preservation plans and state hazard mitigation plans reflect an effort to connect planning processes or goals.

We then use the states of Kentucky, Florida, and Colorado to assess the suitability of publicly available spatial data for identifying flood-exposed historic resources, paying special attention to the National Park Service’s Certified Local Government (CLG) program and the National Trust’s Main Street program. We find that historic preservation and disaster planning are unevenly integrated at the state level.

While publicly available data are often effective in identifying historic resources located within floodplains, the usefulness of these data vary based on location and resource type. We find that CLG and Main Street communities may be well positioned to take a leadership role in planning for the protection of historic resources from floods.

Takeaway for practice: Integrating preservation planning and disaster planning will increase the protection offered to historic resources, which can play a significant role in post-disaster resilience. Preservationists and disaster planners can improve prospects for collaboration by improving the quality of data on at-risk historic resources.

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