WATCH: Sen. Kelly Seeks Continued National Park Service Support for the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area

Yesterday, in a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly highlighted the importance of passing his legislation to extend federal funding for the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area (NHA).

Kelly’s bill, the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act of 2021, would reauthorize grants from the National Park Service (NPS) to the Yuma Crossing NHA for 15 additional years through 2036. NPS authority to provide grants to the Yuma Crossing NHA recently expired at the end of Fiscal Year 2021. 

The Colorado River crossing at Yuma, Arizona, has a long and rich history that has been told through historic preservation and ecosystem restoration projects in and around the downtown Yuma area.

The Subcommittee received testimony from NPS Director for Cultural Resources, Joy Beasley, about the agency’s support for Kelly’s legislation and the success of the Yuma Crossing NHA in leveraging private donations for NPS matching grants. According to studies by the NPS, the Yuma Crossing NHA contributes about $22 million to the Arizona economy through tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Senator Kelly discusses his legislation to reauthorize the Yuma NHA at a Subcommittee on National Parks hearing yesterday morning.

To watch Kelly’s full remarks, click HERE.  

For a transcript of his remarks and exchange with the witness, see below:

[0:01] Sen. Kelly: Ms. Beasley, good morning. Thank you for being here today. I want to ask you about S.1318, it’s my bill to reauthorize grant funding for the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. And thank you for supporting this bill. 

Yuma Crossing played an important role in the history of the West. It is a natural granite outcrop used by indigenous people, Spanish explorers, and tens of thousands of Gold Rush pioneers as it’s the narrowest point to cross the Colorado River into California from Arizona.

The crossing made Yuma a center for interstate commerce in the late 1800s and later supported a vital bridge for locomotives and motor vehicles.

Yuma’s NHA is funded primarily through donations from local and tribal governments and private individuals. And according to a 2015 Park Service review of the Yuma NHA, only one-fifth of the Yuma NHA budget is funded by the Park Service. 

In fact, Yuma NHA only receives one-third of the full $1 million that is authorized from the Park Service each year.  Even with so few resources, the return on investment for the federal government is quite remarkable: the Yuma NHA has an estimated economic impact of about $22.7 million annually.

So Ms. Beasley, how successful would you rate Yuma’s leveraging of Park Service funding to that of most other National Heritage Areas?

[1:59] Ms. Beasley: Thank you sir, so Yuma Crossing, at least since 2015, has continued to meet its non-federal match requirement, and as you point out, has leveraged other sources of funding, grown their partnerships — they are doing great. And we always encourage heritage areas that are having success in seeking other fund sources, those best practices, are great examples that they can share with other National Heritage Areas, and you know Yuma Crossing is an on-the-ground example of the leverage that the $20.9 million in federal funding that we provided in 2020 translates into $85.5 million in cash and in kind donations that are coming from other sources. So keep up the good work Yuma Crossing, yes sir. 

[2:57] Sen. Kelly: Well, thank you for that Ms. Beasley, our National Heritage Areas and our National Parks in Arizona are so important, not only to the folks that like to enjoy them, but also to the economy, so thank you.