The results are in. The San Antonio Missions did not finish in the top eight national parks for National Geographic’s Vote Your Park Contest. The Missions competed for a $236,000 grant for restoration efforts on Mission Concepción.
Voting ended Tuesday, July 5, and the winners were determined by more than 1.1. million votes submitted by people across the country.
The official placement of the Missions in the contest hasn’t yet been released, but “last time we checked the website we were at around number 13,” Los Compadres Executive Director Susan Chandoha told the Rivard Report Wednesday afternoon.
Sponsored by the Partners in Preservation (PIP), the Vote Your Park national campaign selected the San Antonio Missions to be among 20 other national parks to compete in the contest. The selected parks competed for a total of $2 million in grants designated for preservation projects at their respective sites.
The Top Winners Were:
1. Yellowstone Park Foundation, Yellowstone National Park
2. Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
3. Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon National Park
4. Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite National Park
5. Zion National Park Foundation, Zion National Park
6. Pacific Historic Parks, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
7. South Florida National Parks Trust, Everglades National Park
8. Alaska Geographic, Denali National Park
9. Washington’s National Park Fund, Mount Rainier National Park (partial funding)
Chandoha said Mission Concepción was chosen as a preservation project due to its importance as the oldest unrestored stone church in the U.S.
“Out of all the Missions in (the U.S.) it has the best examples of Spanish colonial art or frescoes,” she said.
Back in 1981, Los Compadres – the nonprofit fundraising arm of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park – funded $128,000 worth of conservation projects for the frescoes and the library, also known as the “Eye of God” room, Chandoha said. Over the years Los Compadres has spearheaded the effort to stabilize and preserve the frescos, “but the work never stops,” Chandoha said. “It’s been an ongoing effort for 30 years.”
The funding quest for preservation, restoration, and education projects at the national parks is always ongoing, Chandoha added. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that although the missions lost the grant, the search for funding must continue.
“I guess we didn’t have as well of an organized campaign as some of the other parks, but we’ll keep working,” Wolff said. “Some of (the funding) is about the restorations (in the Missions), and as important as that is, (National Park Service) staffing really needs to be increased at the Missions… We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Los Compadres are very proud to have been selected as the top 20 for the contest out of more than 400 other parks and national icons, Chandoha said.
“It’s hard for an urban park to compete against the national icons like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, and some of the best known parks in America, but we are honored to be in that group,” she said. “We want to thank everyone in the community, all over Bexar County, and those all over the state who helped us in our campaign.”
Both Wolff and Chandoha agreed that keeping the public informed about the Missions and encouraging visitation to the sites will help reinforce the need for their preservation. The forthcoming World Heritage Festival, slated for Sept 9-11, will help do just that as it will bring San Antonians together to celebrate and commemorate the UNESCO World Heritage designation of the Missions with interactive activities, educational offerings, and performances.
Although the Vote Your Park contest didn’t bear fruits, Chandoha is excited for the World Heritage Festival and said the Missions will be ready for the celebrations.
Top image: 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.