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Silver Valley seeks National Heritage Area designation

Tue., June 24, 2008, midnight

Hometown loyalties run deeper than the veins of silver in the hills surrounding Kellogg, Wallace and the small towns of the Silver Valley.

Jim See first noticed it – on the football field and off – when he moved to Wallace in the 1970s.

The towns share a common and colorful history dating back to the 1880s, when gold was discovered on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.

Now supporters like See hope to tap into federal funding and national publicity by having the region named a National Heritage Area – the first in the Pacific Northwest.

Champions of the effort to create the Coeur d’Alene Mining District National Heritage Area hope the entire Silver Valley community will support the idea.

“This, I think, would unify the district,” said See, who also heads up the Pulaski Project to restore the trail leading to a tunnel where firefighters took shelter from the 1910 fire.

Representatives from the National Park Service will be in Kellogg on Wednesday for a presentation on the National Heritage Area program, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Nearly 40 National Heritage Areas are sprinkled throughout the country, mostly in the East and Civil War South. According to the National Park Service, those areas “tell nationally important stories about our nation.”

Wallace resident Ron Roizen said the Silver Valley meets the definition of a National Heritage Area as well or better than some others that are already on the map.

Roizen built a Web site detailing the history of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District to support the National Heritage Area recognition.

He’s part of a committee attempting to gauge community support and determine benefits the designation would bring in terms of historic preservation and economic development.

The meeting Wednesday is one step in a lengthy process that ultimately would require an act of Congress to take effect.

Roizen said committee members want to hear from mining, timber and recreation industry representatives, along with chambers of commerce, nonprofits and economic development groups throughout the Silver Valley.

“We’re even anxious to have people who don’t want to do it,” Roizen said. “We’d like to hear what they have to say. This is a community effort and we need to try and bring them on board.”


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