Blue Mountain, Mississippi, is located in the north-central part of the state, a little more than an hour’s drive from Memphis and not far from Oxford, Tupelo, and Corinth. With a population of less than 500, Blue Mountain is nevertheless home to a historic women’s college and hopes to play a role in the revitalization of the region. The theme of the Blue Mountain Your Town workshop was “Creating Connections: The Mississippi Hills Heritage Area.”
Coordinated by the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University in co-operation with the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area, the workshop focused on ways to enhance and connect the multiple resources of Blue Mountain and the surrounding region to provide a base for expanded heritage tourism. Speakers delivered inspirational messages on the topics of authenticity of architectural design, new urbanism in small-town settings, heritage marketing, and rail-trails.
Like many communities, the small downtown of Blue Mountain has a number of abandoned buildings and some struggling businesses. Yet it is adjacent to Blue Mountain College; along a busy north-south high-way; and close to Holly Springs National Forest. With some visionary investment of money, time, and TLC, Blue Mountain can become a commercial focus for the college and local community. Much of the energy of the workshop centered on strategies to improve the downtown and link it with the heritage resources of northeast Mississippi— including William Faulkner’s history, the Civil War, musical traditions, and natural springs and forests. Workshop participants devised trails to connect the town with the National Forest and proposed a rail-trail along a nearby abandoned rail line.
-Excerpted from Your Town: Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, Update, Fall, 2004
Since the successful 2004 workshop, The North Mississippi Hills Heritage Alliance introduced Congressional legislation to designate Blue Mountain as a National Heritage Area. The legislation was passed, and in the fall of 2009 Senator Roger Wicker announced that the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area would become one of 49 National Heritage Areas in the nation.