An Introduction to Cultural Resources Management Plans

Point State Park is the heart of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the natural and historical seed of the region—the confluence of the three rivers that define the city. Today, the 36-acre urban state park commemorates and preserves the strategic and historical heritage of the area while symbolizing Pittsburgh’s rebirth in the 20th century.

Cultural Resources Management Plans provide an organizational and regulatory framework for managing cultural resources and historic properties

In 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), in partnership with Pennsylvania’s State Historic Preservation Office, began development of a Cultural Resources Management Plan (CRMP) that would provide a framework for addressing protection of cultural and historic resources at the Park.

What is a CRMP?

Cultural Resources Management Plans, sometimes called Historic Properties Management Plans (HPMPs), provide an organizational and regulatory framework for managing cultural resources and historic properties. These plans accomplish the following:

• identify documented cultural resources within management boundaries;
• assess the potential for cultural resources that have not yet been identified within management boundaries;
• identify threats to the resources; and
• provide management procedures and best practices to ensure that the resources’ key characteristics are preserved, as well as to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws.

Why are CRMPs important?

CRMPs provide agencies and institutions with the management framework they need to appropriately manage and protect the resources for which they are responsible. There are several federal and state laws, as well as local laws, which govern the management of cultural resources and historic properties. CRMPs set the stage for compliance with laws, and then provide more detailed guidance on how to manage the resources within a particular area in compliance with applicable laws.

More generally, proper management and protection of the cultural resources ensure that the cultural and historical resources which make a place unique and convey its story are preserved. These resources can have immense value to the local community, other communities which may be connected to the resources but reside outside of the area, and visitors who come to learn about and experience their unique characteristics.

How are CRMPs accomplished?

Begin by identifying key decision makers, stakeholders, and a qualified consultant. A qualified consultant experienced in the preparation of CRMPs and/or HPMPs for a variety of resource types will be able to guide you through the process.

CRMP development starts with an overview and analysis of existing cultural resources and documentation of their current condition. It is important to determine the relationship of these resources within the landscape. Review relevant laws pertaining to the cultural resources that are present.

In the next phase, identify management strategies for resources. What are the key challenges to cultural resource management? What are the potential solutions? Develop an implementation strategy and understand what legal exemptions there may be to provide a tool for staff regarding activities that can proceed without regulatory review. Identify and map specific management units within the site. Synthesize the results of previous investigations in these areas to guide future activities; you don’t want to repeat work already done. Finally, share the planning process and outcomes with stakeholders. Pay particular attention to how best to reach out to Native American tribes who may have ancestral connections to your area. Archaeological and cultural resources may be part of their history. The process finishes with the completion and sharing of a plan and staff training in its use.

When should they be completed?

Any agency or organization that is responsible for the management of cultural resources and/or historic properties will benefit from the creation of a CRMP or HPMP. It is never too early or too late to prepare a plan for the protection of your property’s unique resources, which cannot be replaced once lost or damaged.

Whether a property contains or has the potential to contain culturally or historically significant buildings, landscapes, or cultural and/or archaeological sites, a CRMP will inform management of the site and help ensure its cultural and natural resources are protected in the future.

The importance of DCNR's work at Point State Park

Development of the CRMP for Point State Park began with a commitment by DCNR to increase awareness of the park’s extraordinary history and ensure preservation of resources to enhance visitors’ experiences. By protecting and effectively managing the park’s valuable cultural and historic resources, DCNR is maintaining an important legacy for future generations, and ensuring the survival of one of our nation’s most significant heritage destinations.

For more information or inquiries regarding CRMPs, contact us at info@106group.com.

Anne Ketz, RPA, CIP

Anne’s career in cultural resources management and planning extends over 30 years and three continents. Originally from the United Kingdom, now living in the United States, Anne has witnessed the fields of interpretive planning and resources management change significantly and has been instrumental in its establishment as a vital part of community planning. In her free-time, Anne enjoys traveling to special historic and cultural places around the world.