While the inflammatory U.S. presidential election clouds our airways and internet searches, there’s another election this year – albeit much smaller in scope – with $2 million at stake for National Parks. Voting starts today.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, more specifically Mission Concepción and its Spanish colonial frescoes, convent, and Father President’s office, has been selected along with 19 other National Parks for the Vote Your Park competition organized by Partners in Preservation. After registering through Facebook or email, anyone can go to www.voteyourpark.org and vote for up to five parks every day until July 5.

Funding will be granted according to popular vote to the top eight or nine park projects throughout the U.S., each could apply for up to $250,000. Mission Concepción applied for $236,000.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Superintendent Mardi Arce explains that Mission Concepción is in the running for a $236,000 preservation grant. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Superintendent Mardi Arce explains that Mission Concepción is in the running for a $236,000 preservation grant. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

As of Wednesday morning, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Everglades National Park were in the top five spots. Click here to start voting.

Partners in Preservation was founded by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation 10 years ago and has since contributed $16 million to historic places across the country. National Geographic has partnered with the organization for this year’s National Parks contest.

In order to qualify for the grant, each of the selected parks must have a nonprofit partner that will directly receive the grant money and funnel it back into the park. In Mission Concepción’s case, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, which has worked with the Missions for more than 30 years, will play that role.

Chairman of Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Stephen R. Souter explains the importance of preserving the mission. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Chairman of Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Stephen R. Souter explains the importance of preserving the mission. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

The missions are tremendous structures that have stood the test of time for centuries but not without challenges,” said Steve Souter, Los Compadres board chairman. “This project will address continued issues in the archive room, the courtyard, Father President’s office and will enhance the work that has been done downstairs.”

In the 1980s, Los Compadres funded the first major preservation effort at the Mission Concepción convent. A team of conservators was brought in from Italy and the National Park Service to clean and stabilize frescoes in the “Eye of God” room, uncovering – to the surprise of many – part of the original paint.

The proposed plan includes similar work on the frescoes in the convent, stabilizing but not recreating the paintings.

Some of the less glamorous restorations will take place upstairs in the Father President’s room. Over the decades, water damage has caused the walls to crack and the park hopes that with the grant money, they will be able to fix those cracks.

In years past, the park has fixed such cracks in the wall one at a time when funding became available, but park archeologist Susan Snow said that is not the best approach. With the grant money, she said, they hope to do a full revamp and address the entire issue in a holistic manner.

She also hopes the campaign will bring attention to the park’s other needs.

“The project may seem mundane, but it’s what we need to do to keep the building standing,” Snow said. “That is what this whole campaign is all about. This is a project that will help keep these historic structures standing, not necessarily to have a big party or event.”

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The City of San Antonio and Bexar County encourage San Antonians, Texans and others across the country who have visited the Missions to #VoteYourPark and play an active role in helping preserve our city’s history.

“Let’s vote, vote often and let’s get this grant,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff makes a joke about being able to vote more than once. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff makes a joke about being able to vote more than once. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
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This post has been updated with interviews and information by Rivard Report intern Katie Walsh, and photographs by Rivard Report photographer Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Top image: Mission Concepción at sunset. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org