To the Editor,
The UNESCO World Heritage Site program is considering three historic sites in southern Ohio for designation as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These sites are Fort Ancient, the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park and the Newark Earthworks.
Within the tourism industry, recognition as a World Heritage Site is the equivalent of winning four stars for a restaurant or an Olympic gold medal for an athlete. Having the Hopewell sites listed would bring tourists from around the world to southwest Ohio, providing jobs and fueling economic growth in our region.
UNESCO’s 2011 recognition of Palestine as a voting member complicated the World Heritage process for the United States, freezing World Heritage status applications for U.S. properties. To bypass this problem, the current draft of the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations bill includes a waiver allowing the U.S. to pay the portion of the UNESCO dues earmarked for the work of the World Heritage Committee.
Southern Ohio has a lot at stake in this. Attaining World Heritage designation could increase tourism to these sites by about 200,000 visitors annually, generating about $100 million of local revenue annually within five years. This could include $21 million in additional annual wages in Ohio and over $5 million in annual state and local tax revenues.
The advocates for the World Heritage List do not take any ideological position on the question of Palestine’s UNESCO membership. We simply wish to see southern Ohio sites included on the World Heritage List.
Southern Ohioans should actively support to this nomination process. The first step is to contact your elected officials locally and in Congress, in support of the UNESCO dues waiver.