Preservation Merits Funding

Too many taxpayer-funded programs are renewed and funded automatically, sometimes with financial increases built in. When Congress sets limits, lawmakers are being prudent stewards.

Far from having the fiscal screws tightened on them, some federal initiatives are so worthwhile that they ought to be considered for more funding.

Wheeling Heritage is among them.

We were pleased to report Sunday that a bill approved by the U.S. Senate has given Wheeling Heritage a longer timeline in which to do its work. Good for Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for providing critical support to the bill.

Wheeling Heritage receives slightly less than half its funding from the National Park Service. That amounts to around $600,000 a year.

Legislation authorizing that support placed a cap on total NPS money the local organization could receive. That limit was $13 million. Fortunately, the Senate bill takes the cap up to $15 million.

House of Representatives members should approve the bill, and not just because of Wheeling Heritage. It includes other vital programs, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Wheeling Heritage and its predecessor, the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp., have been engaged in important historic preservation and economic development work for many years. It has made an enormous impact — $86.6 million during one three-year period, according to an economic impact study.

In the process, Wheeling Heritage has been instrumental in preserving some of our city’s most important buildings — often helping to repurpose them so that they can contribute to the economy once again.

Here’s one reason why Wheeling Heritage has earned more support from Washington: Many recipients of federal funding become long-term dependents on taxpayers. For a substantial number, it is their only source of money.

Not so with Wheeling Heritage. Part of its work has been in self-sufficiency through revenue-generating projects. Last year, the organization produced about 26 percent of its own operating funds.

For now, however, there are any number of important preservation/economic development initiatives on which federal funding could be put to wise use, if Wheeling Heritage had just a little more support from Washington.

Increasing it ought to be the next campaign by West Virginia’s delegation in Congress.

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