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Arts & Culture

President Signs Bill Approving Expansion Of Missions National Historic Park

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Eileen Pace
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The National Defense Authorization Act for 2015, signed by President Obama last week, includes an important rider that will allow the National Park Service to expand its reach around the group of 18th Century San Antonio Missions.

This section of the legislation was designed to support the Missions’ application for recognition as a World Heritage Site. 

The San Antonio Missions and National Historical Park Boundary Expansion Act will allow the National Parks Service to acquire 137 acres that has been parsed out to different entities over the years, including the San Antonio River Authority, the City of San Antonio and Bexar County.

Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who is a member of the Congressional International Conservation Caucus, said the parks service could now recreate the agricultural piece of the picture, important to the missions' authenticity as the site is considered by the World Heritage Committee.

"Much of telling the story about the missions is telling the story about a working place, a real cultural landscape," he said. "We're talking about farm fields and original irrigation lines, and that was a really important aspect of the missions when they were San Antonio de Bejar."

Father David Garcia, who managed the Missions’ restoration project and is director of the Old Spanish Missions of San Antonio, said the additional acreage also will provide a buffer between the modern world and the mission culture of the 1700s.

"That's absolutely true. We want people to be able to visit these missions and have clear sight-lines from these missions and toward these missions that are not going to be encumbered by huge developments and buildings in front of them or across the street," Garcia said. 

The World Heritage Committee is scheduled to vote on the site’s nomination in Bonn, Germany, in June.