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Preserving the past can enhance the future

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From The Editors Desk Emily WootenSummers seemed to last forever as a child. And when it was time for school to resume, I was usually ready, if for no other reason than to see my friends and talk about what we did all summer. As an adult, summer seems to fly by in the blink of an eye. We’ve barely bought the daughter a new swimsuit and then it’s already time to go back-to-school shopping for supplies and clothes.

We typically take numerous small trips throughout the year. We’ve found that this helps keep our batteries charged so to speak and avoid burnout from work, school and other obligations. We’re talking about going on a family vacation this summer, one where we actually take a whole week off from work and go somewhere out of state. We don’t have many summers left with our daughter so it seems all the more crucial.

All this talk of traveling and the various things to see and do when traveling has me reminiscing about some of the really neat, funky refurbished downtown squares we’ve seen in our travels throughout the state – Denton, Georgetown, McKinney, Bastrop, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Taylor. And then I realized they shared a common denominator. All of these towns are designated Main Street Communities.

Not familiar with Main Street Communities? Under the umbrella of the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Main Street Program was born of the belief that downtown revitalization is a crucial tool for enhancing the economic and social health of a community. In addition to being the most visible indicator of community pride and economic health, the historic downtown is also the foundation of the unique heritage of a community. The historic buildings in a downtown are prime locations for the establishment of unique entrepreneurial businesses and can also be tourism attractors, all of which add to the community’s sales tax collections and property values.

A community’s unique historic resources are valuable and the appropriate preservation of these resources contributes to the community’s overall economic, social and cultural vitality. And these are just a few of the reasons why preservation is so important.

The Texas Historical Commission annually designates the month of May as Preservation Month. Preservation Month acknowledges the mission across the country to cultivate a love of historic places, to help others understand the importance of saving history and to demonstrate the importance of saving real places that tell real stories.

During the month of May, members of the Polk County Historical Commission placed “Preservation Matters” signs throughout the county where buildings or homes have been preserved, including structures that are in the process of being restored or needing restoration.

I can’t help but chuckle about the fact that our daughter was well into her teens before she realized that not everyone went to museums and historic sites on their vacations. Following that revelation, the outings she had enjoyed immensely over the course of her childhood now seemed like drudgery. But that’s okay. We’ve seen her love of history, and appreciation for it, blossom considerably in recent years. And I can’t help but think that part of that is due to her visits to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, the Texas Capitol, the Alamo, San Marcos Springs and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco, the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, NASA, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center, San Antonio Center for Art, the Marfa & Presidio County Museum, the Sue & Frank Mayborn Natural Science and Cultural History Museum Complex in Waco, the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Institute of Texas Cultures in San Antonio, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis and several forts in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So when you plan your summer vacation, think about visiting historic sites, museums and courthouses. Stroll down main streets and support businesses that invest in the historic fabric of their towns.

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