National Heritage Area Initiatives
National Heritage Areas seek to preserve and celebrate America’s defining landscapes and diverse cultural traditions. National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress and promote three main goals:
- Increased economic growth through heritage tourism
- Care and promotion of natural and cultural resources
- Enhanced educational opportunities about the region’s heritage
Designation does not add any federal regulation to private or public property use or development, and the growth of heritage tourism and resource conservation can bring long term economic and community benefits.
The forty existing National Heritage Areas contain many natural, cultural, and recreational resources. These resources form cohesive, nationally distinctive regions that are the result a specific landscape affecting the way people live and, in turn, the lifestyle of people affecting the landscape. These regions represent, through their landscapes and cultural traditions, a significant part of the total American experience. An Area’s cultural, ecological, recreational, civic, and business resources can be promoted together for the benefit of local communities.
Typically, local non-profit organizations manage National Heritage Areas, not the federal government. Technical assistance and funding is available from the National Park Service and there is great flexibility in the uses for the funding. Currently designated Areas have used their funds for a variety of purposes, including:
- Small business development (loans and counseling)
- Recreational trail development or maintenance
- Brochures, signage, maps and other materials to aid tourists (and residents!) in discovering and enjoying the region
- Natural areas clean-up and restoration
- Website development for local agencies
- Murals, festivals, musical and dance performances, radio programs, television series, and new plays about the region
- New books about the region’s historical figures or role in major historical events
- Historic site or downtown renovations
- Student field trips and special projects focusing on local history
- Museum, library, traveling, and other public exhibits
- Teacher training workshops
- Student photographic and oral history projects
- Promotion of locally-produced foods and other agricultural products
Find a list of all currently-designated National Heritage Areas and learn more from the National Park Service’s official website.