U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will tour the newly established Augusta Canal National Heritage Area this week.
"He wants to see the area firsthand, walk on it, maybe take a boat trip," said Canal Authority Chairman Tom Robertson, who is working with authority member Jeanie Allen to plan Mr. Babbitt's Wednesday visit.
The heritage area, one of the provisions of a massive parks package adopted by Congress Oct. 3, was a primary goal of the Canal Master Plan designed to bring national recognition to the 151-year-old waterway.
Although the designation by Congress carries no money, it does authorize up to $1 million a year in appropriations from existing programs. Those funds would require matching local commitments.
Augusta also will benefit from planning assistance from the National Park Service. Its Rivers, Trails and Conversation Assistance Program is planning a series of meetings to help local authorities with canal-related projects.
Mr. Babbitt's tour will include the Enterprise Mill, a vacant landmark earmarked for renovation into a canal visitors center and residential complex; the Cotton Exchange on Reynolds Street; and the canal headgates at the Old Lock and Dam in Evans, Mr. Robertson said.
Mr. Babbitt's visit to Augusta is part of a trip to include one other recently created national landmark, the Montgomery Trail between Selma and Montgomery, Ala., a significant route in the history of the civil-rights movement.