National Park Could Be Established By October

By MARK EVANS

STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park may officially be established by October.

Chris Collins, park superintendent, reported at the end of a joint Tourism Advisory Council [TAC] and Tourism Tax Commission [TTC] meeting on July 21 and shared some optimistic news.

Collins said there were just “a few things to clarify,” before the official request can be made.

“We’re currently working on two agreements,” he said. “If we can hammer them out, we can present those to our regional director and then draft a memo to the Secretary of the Interior, requesting that the park be established.

“We are hoping that that will happen sometime in October and we would be official at that point.”

He was asked what would come with the official status.

Collins replied that adding more full-time staff and “a significant increase in budget.” He said he hopes to hire a chief of maintenance and a chief of interpretation, as well as more seasonal staff.

“I’m still trying to figure out what the park is supposed to do and how it fits in with Ste. Genevieve,” Collins said.

Because 2020 has been “such a strange year,” with the COVID-19 shutdown, he said he hasn’t been able to get the feel of how the park can best  contribute to the overall scheme. That, he said, is beginning to change, though.

“I’m kind of getting a feel from the various organizations, what they really need from us,” Collins said. “I see the park service as a support system. The park really does belong to everyone, it belongs to the community.”

He said he is trying to be a good steward” and help however he can.

Many benefits will become available once the par is officially established including the popular passport stamp program. Cancellation stamps can be found at National Park Service units throughout the nation. These rubber-stamp ink markings record the name of the park and the date of the guest’s visit.

“Everybody wants that [passport] stamp,” Collins said, noting that  a passport stamp will be one of the perks of being an officially established park, along with highway signage and more website presence.

Collins said his current staff has good social media background and that  the “skeleton” of a new website is being developed already.

“I think it’s going to be much more robust,” he said.

He said he “really looks forward to” highway signage being added on I-55 and Highway 61.

With the enthusiasm that Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt has shown for the project, Collins said he hopes to see everything finalized before the November 8 election.

Polls show President Donald Trump trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by double digit figures and  some question whether the Republicans can maintain control of the Senate. Therefore, Blunt might wield less influence after November than before.

“We have support from Senator Blunt’s office right now and he’s been pushing it,” Collins said. “With his administration in charge, it’s time to pull the trigger on it.”

Collins said an about-face has also been made on the official name of the park.

For two centuries, Ste. Genevieve residents have abbreviated the French feminine “Sainte” to the familiar “Ste.” This has often perplexed out of state visitors and initially led the NPS to suggest spelling out “Sainte” in the park’s official name, to avoid confusion.

Collins said, though, that tradition will be honored and that the official name will be the “Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.”