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Standing on the steps of the William Weeks Home and overlooking an empty grassy field, Steven Olsen sees not only Nauvoo’s past but its future.

The two are intertwined for Olsen, senior curator for historic sites in the church history department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Olsen engineered a master plan for Historic Nauvoo, approved by church leaders in 2014, designed to feature core messages, integrate historical landscapes, increase authenticity and improve guest experiences by 2039, the bicentennial of Nauvoo’s founding.

The plan, outlined Tuesday, extends beyond bricks and mortar in Nauvoo, the largest of the church’s historic sites.

“There’s no way we can recreate the brick and mortar sort of environment that was here in the 1840s. Even if we could we wouldn’t want to because bricks and mortar only go so far to tell the whole story, the experiential part,” Olsen said. “I suspect, that done right, this will be quite an addition to the local cultural environment and not just the Mormon religious heritage.”

Mayor John McCarty said the changes sound “promising” for the community.

“The fact they’re looking to enhnace the experience will definitely make an improvement for Nauvoo,” McCarty said. “What they’re hoping for is to get new people and more people to return. As far as a tourist point of view, it will enhance our numbers.”

The plan’s first phase focuses on the roughly 20-acre “Temple District” and calls for restoring three historic homes, recreating another home along with the West Grove and other landscape features and adding a building housing original stones of the Nauvoo Temple.

To read more about the plans for Nauvoo in the Herald-Whig, click here.