By Rita Hess (USAEC Contractor)August 21, 2019
As cultural resources manager for the Texas Army National Guard, Kristen Mt. Joy preserves both the training mission and the land's heritage.
Her work is scattered across nearly 269,000 square miles and all kinds of environments--urban communities, floodplains, deserts, aquatic habitats, and everything in between--and the cultural resources include prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, documents, buildings, and much more.
So how does one person handle it? Pretty darn well, it seems. Indeed, Mt. Joy earned the title of Runner Up for a 2019 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award in the Cultural Resources Management (Team/Individual) category.
Across the TXARNG's five training sites, she manages a 221-acre district on the National Register of Historic Places; a missile silo and radar site; 52 buildings eligible for listing; six Traditional Cultural Properties; and more than 700 archaeological sites.
"Mt. Joy's cultural resources management program is a perfect blend of technology, partnerships, and tribal involvement," said Col. Les Davis, director of the Construction Facilities Management Office. "To safeguard the resources, she developed a protocol for conducting Traditional Cultural Property surveys that curtail training impacts, with a goal of completing all such surveys at TXARNG sites within five years. These surveys are unique because tribal nations helped create the scopes of work rather than archaeologists, helping implement an appropriate cultural landscape approach in management."
Introducing Traditional Cultural Property surveys enhanced the TXARNG's relationships with its consulting tribes, such as the one at Camp Swift with four tribes participating. Mt. Joy received grant funds to monitor TCP sites quarterly using unmanned aerial systems that survey large areas quickly, enabling a prompt return to missions.
Always cost conscious, she works as a partnering organization for universities, researchers, and other agencies applying for grant when possible and has streamlined processes with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to simplify cultural resources management (CRM) compliance.
This year, for example, a 90-day permitting process for renovation occurred within 14 days, thanks to her preparation and communication efforts. The CRM program manages Camp Mabry's 220-acre historic district.
As a State Antiquities Landmark, it requires special state permitting for every rehabilitation, modification, demolition, and new construction project. Mt. Joy's oversight--from early funding requests to design to construction--is essential, as the TXARNG risks a hefty fine for permit violations.
Her plan-ahead thinking allows her to obtain permits in advance of construction kick-off, if feasible, which allows concerns or issues to be addressed without a delay in project execution.
Sometimes, her efforts seem backwards, as happened when Mt. Joy worked to have a historic district designation at one property removed.
The former aircraft assembly plant was recommended eligible prior to TXARNG taking over its management. A portion of it was sold to private owners, who demolished critically significant buildings.
Still, other buildings had to be treated as contributing elements. Negotiating with the SHPO, she sought approval to remove the designation, which allowed demolition of several deteriorated buildings.
Mt. Joy is integral in developing training resources. For example, she worked on a team tasked with quickly preparing an environmental assessment for a proposed drop zone, a normally lengthy process.
In this case, the location included three archaeological sites of indeterminate eligibility for protection and a protected site. Mt. Joy arranged for priority testing in those areas and consulted immediately with SHPO and tribal representatives, after which she proposed mitigation that allowed the drop zone to proceed with no adverse effects or time delays.
This reflects her commitment in her work. By laying the groundwork and prioritizing communication, potential issues were addressed before they actually became issues.
Sharing her expertise and experience is important to Mt. Joy, both in professional organizations and in the community, enhancing cultural awareness and education. She hosts booths, gives presentations, and ensures media feature special projects at Camp Mabry.
She takes part in Texas history events and is a proponent of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for children of TXARNG Soldiers and staff.
As a cultural resources manager, Mt. Joy is one of a kind--one person somehow doing the work of many to preserve the TXARNG mission and preserve history.