Friday, April 23, 2010

The Kentucky Military Heritage Act: Putting It to Work Preserving History

On March 12th, 2002, surrounded by SCV members, legislators and others interested in our military and historic preservation, Governor Patton signed into law the Kentucky Military Heritage Act. It was the culmination of two years’ hard work by many people, and signing day was truly a celebration. However, the really hard work remains before us. Historic objects and sites must be nominated for preservation and voted on by the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission.

Almost two years after the signing, the vast majority of our Kentucky Confederate objects and sites remain unprotected. Partly this is due to the lengthy “promulgation” process required by law to set up the regulations for the commission. But it is also due to the fact that very few objects have been nominated for protection. Our camps must make this a high priority over the next few months and years, for it is inevitable that threats from environment to political correctness will come.

The form for nomination is available from Kentucky Civil War Sites Coordinator Tom Fugate at:, or Kentucky Heritage Council, 300 Washington Street, Frankfort, KY 40601

The form is not short (21 pages); the reason for this is that protecting our historic objects and sites goes beyond just fending off people afflicted with political correctness; time and the elements also take a toll in addition to people who want to move statues for construction projects and other non-politically correct reasons, and the KMHA is intended to be a complete preservation program. That means detailed information on ownership, exact (as in UTM) position, composition etc. are required to do the job right. The best general advice is to fill out the form to the best of your ability— if there are items like the position numbers that you can’t provide, the staff at the Kentucky Heritage Council (which handles the administrative aspects of the KMHA) will take it from there. A few points to keep in mind:

¨ Permission— proving ownership of the object or site, and gaining permission from the property owner is the single most important task. It is possible under the law for the commission to protect without the owner’s permission, but it is much less likely that they will do so. Typically a statue is on the county courthouse lawn, making the county the owner, meaning that you must approach the Judge Executive or a county commissioner or appropriate county official. There is an area in the form for the owner to sign, but obtaining a separate letter of support from the owner is also very helpful. If you are dealing with a local government and you aren’t sure of what support you will get, do a little leg work. For instance, if you find out that the mayor isn’t interested in signing (maybe reelection is coming up and he/she wants that NAACP endorsement), but the parks commissioner thinks it’s a great idea, have the parks commissioner sign it—as long as it is an official who could reasonably be said to represent the local government. It is better to emphasize when talking with local officials that this is an effort to preserve an important object of local art and history (and that if the state ever provides funding for preserving these types of objects they will most likely use the KMHA registration to determine who gets money) - rather than saying you want to snub the politically correct.

¨ Depending on whether you are submitting an object or a site, some of the questions on the form won’t apply, so don’t worry about them. If it is a site, then you have considerations like legal descriptions of the property boundaries, chain of title, deed restrictions, etc. (which, KMHA registration in effect becomes a deed restriction itself).

¨ Pictures—take plenty of pictures from different angles to give a complete view of all sides, the condition, etc. Put the pictures in a plastic photo sheet and number them. Then give corresponding detailed descriptions on the application.

¨ The form no longer has the question about “what are immediate threats” to the object or site, but there is a section to describe the significance of the object or site which is important not to understate. The Commission should be given a clear reason why this object/site is significant enough to preserve.

Now—get out there and get those important statues, monuments, flag displays and other objects and sites nominated!

Originally published in the Spring 2004 The Lost Cause

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