YUMA CROSSING NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA: SURVIVING & THRIVING IN THE AGE OF COVID
By Lowell Perry, Executive Director
October 7, 2020
The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area (YCNHA) has been actively taking a pragmatic approach to meet the complex challenge of COVID-19. Central to our overall efforts is being transparent with the community we serve, and avoiding politicization of our decisions by taking our ques from public health officials and available scientific data. Our number one goal has been the safety of our team members, and that of the many visitors to our YCNHA facilities, as well as our tenants at the Heritage Center we manage at Old City Hall.
While the journey has certainly not been an easy one, planning, developing sensible strategies, steadfast board support, and a resolute passionate team of YCNHA professionals, has allowed us to keep moving forward in our evolution as an organization. Following are many of the steps we have taken along the way:
• Immediately developed COVID-19 policies and procedures to protect staff and facilities, and course of actions to take if there is ever a positive test result or an exposure, including quarantining and contact tracing.
• Closed our two state historic parks in mid-March, as infection numbers were increasing locally.
• During the downtime of our closed parks, we were able to keep hourly staff working by doing minor repair/restoration work, as well as intense disinfecting of the facilities in anticipation of an eventual reopening. This included working across organizational silos. We kept the public informed of our decisions, and our actions were widely applauded.
• Successfully secured PPP funding through the CARES Act to keep people working.
• Mandated appropriate social distancing and wearing of masks.
• Instituted a hybrid telework schedule for our headquarters staff. Went to a Zoom format for our regular staff and board meetings. Any other internal meetings that required more than six (6) people are via Zoom as well.
• Eliminated nonessential travel.
• Encouraged online personal and professional development through participation in myriad webinars and conferences.
• When we determined it was safe to reopen our parks, we did so only after sufficient PPE and protective equipment like sneeze guards was available for regular use by team members. Made mask wearing a requirement for all staff and park visitors when inside buildings on the grounds. Installed hand sanitizer stations throughout our facilities, including the Heritage Center. Increased cleaning/disinfecting activities.
• Prior to opening, we did a press release to inform the public of everything we were doing to keep them safe. Again, being transparent.
• Keeping Arizona State Parks & Trails and the City of Yuma informed along the way. The latter was helpful in developing internal messaging and COVID protocol.
• Continue to work across silos to take on repair and landscaping projects throughout the YCNHA.
• Opened the new Yuma Crossing Discovery Center, a branded welcome center for all things YCNHA, including a gift/souvenir shop.
• Created, and executing on a budget and short and long-term sustainability strategies for the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.
• Increasing leadership in collective impact efforts to raise the tide, and thereby all boats, through initiatives like the Mega Park concept.
• Remaining very active on social media, as well as traditional media to keep people informed.
• Reimagining what our two state historic parks can be by exploring more “pull” oriented marketing, including outdoor and virtual events.
Last, but certainly not least, is that our team has managed to keep a sense of humor and try to have a little fun. This experience continues to be an extraordinary team-building exercise. I wish you all similar success. Keep up with all that is happening with the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area by visiting www.yumaheritage.com. Be safe.
Yuma Crossing Discovery Center
The new Yuma Crossing Discovery Center is now open at the Colorado River State Historic Park located at 201 N. 4th Avenue. The Discovery Center serves multiple purposes as the official entrance to the park, a gift shop, as well as a place where visitors can learn about the history of the Yuma Crossing, a national historic landmark.
The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area has been restoring, preserving, maintaining, and promoting Yuma’s history since 2000 and is excited to now have a designated location at the Discovery Center where visitors can not only learn about Yuma’s riverfront history but can also discover the many opportunities to explore the sites, museums, parks, and trails along Yuma’s riverfront. A unique element to the Discovery Center’s gift shop is an art gallery featuring works by local artists inspired by sites within the Heritage Area.
The Colorado River State Historic Park has been working hard on the changes happening with the Yuma Crossing Discovery Center, which is the entrance to the park. When visiting, you will see the updated paint work throughout the YCDC and theatre, new paint on Quartermaster's Office doors and much more!
The Colorado River Park's Emily Sanderall works hard on our outreach programs. She has had several successful Saturdays at the Museum workshops, which continue through March of 2021.
Emily has also shared the history of the Hispanic Culture and the impact it has had on the agriculture in Yuma. September was Hispanic Heritage month and on our Facebook page we shared several posts about the history of the Hispanic culture in Yuma, AZ. Please see the following text below for more information on this subject.
We would be remiss if we did not talk about the tremendous impact that Hispanic culture has had on agriculture here in Yuma and throughout North America. To highlight a few early influences, ranching is believed to have first evolved in the region of present-day Spain, and it was Spaniards that brought this practice to colonial North America. Spanish colonizers were also the first to re-introduce horses to North America--animals that would become vital to vaquero (or cowboy) culture. In looking a little closer to home and to the modern day, we can find the Mexican-born Redondo brothers, Jose Maria and Jesus. In the 1860s and 70s, these brothers operated the first successful large-scale agricultural farm in Yuma. At the turn of the century, the Bureau of Reclamation built the Yuma Project, which included the construction of the Laguna Dam, Yuma Main Canal, and Colorado River Siphon. This infrastructure helped make large-scale agriculture a possibility for all farmers in Yuma. A majority of the laborers hired to work on this project were Mexican-American. Today, around 80% of all farm workers in the U.S. are Hispanic, and more than 3% of all principal farm operators are Hispanic. Without the tireless work of these agricultural laborers and innovators the United States would be unable to sustain the massive agriculture that we all rely on.
Help your kids learn more about the importance of agriculture with this website and app that’s chalk full of fun games and resources!
Check out these fantastic sources to help you learn more about migrant farm laborers and their experiences.
• Calling the Doves a children’s book by Juan Felipe Herrera
• Under the Feet of Jesus a novel by Helena Maria Viramontes
• PBS Latino Americans Episode 5: Prejudice and Pride- https://www.pbs.org/.../latino-americans-episode-5.../
The Yuma Territorial Prison was named by USA Today the second Most Haunted Destination in the United States. While we didn't hold onto the number one spot, we still are in the top two! After last year's Paranormal Tours, we personally found out who still resides at the Prison and how much paranormal activity still takes place.
Not only was Yuma Territorial Prison again recognized as a Most Haunted Destination, we were also named one of the top destinations to visit in the world by TripAdvisor. We can't thank everyone enough who has left a review after visiting. That helps us be able to share your experiences around the world and attract visitors! We appreciate your support and positive feedback!
The YCNHA continues restoration activities at the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) grant project within 17.5 acres on Quechan tribal land. Invasive species, like salt cedar and phragmites/giant reed, continue to reemerge after the first mechanical removal earlier this year. Both salt cedar and phragmites/giant reed, like most invasive plants, have a great reproductive capability making them difficult to control. YCNHA used an integrated management approach to safely and effectively control and suppress these invasive species. This approach included a combination of mechanical, manual and chemical treatments that were conducted throughout the spring and summer. After extensive invasive species management, YNCHA is now preparing the area for native vegetation planting this fall.
The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is honored to be awarded in the category of Outstanding Service Organization. Our commitment to the betterment of the Yuma community has not gone unnoticed. For that, it is the Arizona Community Foundation's pleasure to present us with a coveted crystal-shaped paperweight on October 20th.
During the beginning of our new adventure with the Yuma Crossing Discovery Center, we would not have been able to complete many things without the help of Ken Waller. He has volunteered his time and services to help get our new adventure up and running. We are very grateful for all of his time and talents and look forward to working with him on this endeavor.