Partnerships in Preservation: Sustainable Heritage Tourism
By John Poimiroo Principal, Poimiroo & Partners | August 03, 2010
The first immigrant to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay arrived 10,000 years ago.
He was probably an ancestor of the Coast Miwok people who took residence in Marin County, north of the San Francisco Peninsula and arrived by tule reed boat to explore for food and habitat. His history was not recorded, though it is imagined. The history of thousands of other immigrants who passed through Angel Island will, however, be preserved when the historic U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island State Park reopens in January, 2008.
Restoration of the immigration station on Angel Island has been years coming, funded by the State of California (which oversees Angel Island State Park), countless private contributions - many from descendents of those who entered the U.S. through the immigration station - and, most recently, by a grant from the American Express Partners in Preservation program.
The San Francisco Bay Area was one of several U.S. travel destinations selected by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to receive $1 million in preservation funds from American Express. Twenty five sites throughout the Bay Area were identified as needing immediate care with residents of the area voting online to select those that should be assisted, first. The sites were chosen for their historic, architectural and cultural significance, demonstrated community support, ability to be restored by June 2008 and their contribution to tourism or community development.
The last factor - contribution to tourism or community development - is new to how historic preservation is prioritized in California, today. It recognizes that to be sustainable an historic site or location must be visited and that visitation should serve both to keep the site preserved and benefit the local economy. The sites that were selected, "are all integral to the fabric of San Francisco as a diverse and historic destination," said Joe D'Allessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau who recognized the preservation of them will benefit "visitors and local residents alike."
At Angel Island State Park (voted the second-most important site to preserve from among the 25 selected for American Express' grant), tourism and preservation are synonymous. Visitors combine a visit to the Immigration Station and the island's other historic sites with picnicking, sightseeing tours on tramways and by riding Segways in small guided groups, hiking, mountain biking, ocean kayaking and relaxing. The ferry ride from Tiburon, San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf and Oakland/Alameda is part of the experience. Some visitors even choose to combine a visit to Angel Island State Park with a stop at Alcatraz Island (administered by the National Park Service), notorious for its prison.