Northwest Florida Maritime Landscape Alliance for Preservation

PENSACOLA – In January 2021 the Northwest Florida Maritime Landscape Alliance for Preservation (MLAP) was officially incorporated by the state of Florida. The current nine-person board of directors represents many different areas within Northwest Florida (from Escambia to Leon counties) and bring diverse skillsets from various professional backgrounds.

MLAP’s president Dr. Sorna Khakzad-Knight states: “Our board of directors offer a wide variety of perspectives and expertise from non-profit, business, government, education, tourism, politics, arts, sciences, and research whose interests align with MLAPs mission and purpose.”

The mission of MLAP is to create a partnership among Northwest Florida natural, cultural, and archaeological organizations and local groups to encourage grassroots collaboration, provide education, advocacy, guidance, facilitation and a vision for the sustainable preservation of heritage and environmental resources for present and future generations.

The non-profit organization was founded in 2020 as a coalition of organizations and individuals who initially connected through the Florida Panhandle Maritime National Heritage Area feasibility study. MLAP’s Vice President Gerald Smith advocated for this project since 2018 and has become one of its strongest proponents in Santa Rosa County. Mr. Smith explains that “Northwest Florida has a powerful story to tell. It is a nationally historic landscape with natural treasures worth sharing and preserving.”

Mr. Smith also states the vision of MLAP: “Northwest Florida partnerships inspire and educate residents and visitors with an appreciation for how our maritime history influenced the region, the nation, and the world. This rich heritage and natural landscape are a source of pride for our resilient communities, providing a viable recreational, economic, and conservation influence.”

One of the priorities of the non-profit is to continue advocating for the designation of Northwest Florida into a National Heritage Area. National Heritage Areas are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes. Consequently, National Heritage Areas entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs.

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