From left to right: MSDMR Executive Director Jamie Miller, Governor Phil Bryant, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Senator Roger Wicker, and Rhonda Price, MSDMR MGCNHA Director

On October 6, 2016, the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area (MGCNHA) released a new look and a new plan. Governor Bryant, Senator Wicker, and Secretary of State Hosemann helped commemorate the event.  A Nature-Based Tourism Management Plan and updated website are elevating Mississippi’s coastal visibility and boosting the economic value of an industry.

In 2004, then President George Bush signed legislation that designated the six coastal counties of Mississippi as a Natural Heritage Area. These areas are a partnership of communities, business, government, non-profits, and individuals who value the region’s rich culture and environmental diversity, history, natural beauty and traditions. Their mission is to promote and conserve the area’s rich history and its nationally significant role for the region.

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance Coastal Resilience Team also values the needs of coastal communities to preserve their stories and way of life. In the Governors’ Action Plan III, a primary goal is to, “Promote adaptation, mitigation, and restoration as strategies to preserve heritage, conserve natural resources, and support the economic viability of the coast.” Working with leadership of the Coastal Resilience Team, MGCHNA drew upon partner resources to launch the Gulf Coast National heritage program.

nbt-plan_page_001One result was the Nature-Based Tourism Management Plan. The Plan provides a comprehensive vision for improving key visitor areas and the infrastructure support needed. It includes everything from maps and signage to events and long-term outreach to keep the public engaged.

The Plan not only addresses area improvements but the economic drivers that make it all happen. Small businesses can access the Resilience Team’s best management practices through a resource business toolkit to assist entrepreneurs who start a business, to stay in business. The Tourism Index is one example and it allows the industry to assess their level of resilience before and after a storm. Thus, improving their ability to bounce back and back to business as usual.

All of this, the Nature-Based Tourism Management Plan and more, is found on the updated website msgulfcoastheritage.ms.gov. The fresh look and navigation make it easy to find some of coastal Mississippi’s most beloved museums, scenic areas, and festivals … just to name a few.

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