U.S. Senator Roy Blunt was presented the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Foundation for Restoration of Ste. Genevieve last month in a virtual ceremony that took place at the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center.
Blunt appeared remotely from Washington, D.C., and some members of the foundation and City of Ste. Genevieve representatives also attended via Zoom.
Foundation President Mike “Skip” Weiler made the presentation. Weiler, a former coach and teacher, likened it to giving a most valuable player award at a team’s season-ending banquet. It was a team effort involving many people that led to the establishment of the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park on Oct. 30, 2020, but Blunt played an influential role in the federal government process to have the National Park Service establish the park.
The senator recognized others in the team effort, including the foundation and Ste. Genevieve residents.
“Generations of people in Ste. Genevieve who cared about the uniqueness of Ste. Genevieve made all the difference here,” Blunt said. “The effort has been long, and I was so excited when my staff brought in the picture the other day and put it on my desk of the park service sign on the highway that indicated turn right here and you’re going to go to the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.
“I think this has the potential to tell a story that can’t be told in the same way anywhere else. It has the potential to be maybe the greatest historical walking park in the country, and that’s saying something, but I don’t say it without thinking about it.”
During his comments, Blunt also recognized U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, the Missouri State Historical Society, Missouri State Parks, Mike Ward and Chris Collins of the National Park Service and a member of his own staff who was persistent during the process.
“Dan Burgess, my legislative director, had a required every two-week phone call with the park service for at least nine months” to check on the progress, Blunt said.
The award presented to Blunt noted that the senator introduced legislation to establish the park in May of 2016, after the National Park Service had published its final special resource study and environmental assessment. While the bill was not taken up during that congressional session, Blunt sponsored another bill in 2017 that eventually became part of an omnibus bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in March of 2018.
The award recognized Blunt for visiting Ste. Genevieve “frequently during the process to keep local community partners informed,” “using his knowledge of Ste. Genevieve, its history, and its architecture” to present “the case for park establishment eloquently at Senate Committee hearings,” and working “tirelessly with the National Park Service and the State of Missouri to acquire sufficient property to formally establish the park and to provide funding for park operations.”
The park so far includes the Jean-Baptiste Valle House, donated by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Missouri; and the Beauvais-Amoureux House donated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The city of Ste. Genevieve and the National Park Service currently are cooperatively managing the Welcome Center, which the city has agreed to donate to the National Park Service. The federal agency is in the process of acquiring other properties as well.
The Foundation for Restoration of Ste. Genevieve is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1967 with the purpose of promoting preservation and restoration of historic structures and other properties that illustrate Ste. Genevieve’s early history and culture.