Congress approves Heritage Areas, Erie Canalway bills

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Sign in Waterford at the junction of the Erie Canal and Champlain Canal

Sign in Waterford at the junction of the Erie Canal and Champlain Canal. (Doug Kerr / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

WASHINGTON (NEWS10) – On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the National Heritage Area Act – legislation proposed by Rep. Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) & Rep. David McKinley (R-WV). The Act establishes a formal process for designating and maintaining National Heritage Areas and extends the life of the Erie Canalway Heritage Area Commission currently set to expire in September. National Heritage Areas are maintained by local public-private partnerships and administered through the National Parks Service.

Tonko secured an amendment to the National Heritage Areas Act prior to final passage that incorporates other legislation he has introduced to ensure lasting protections and financial backing for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission by extending its authorization through the next 15 years.

“Not only do National Heritage Areas support jobs and foster economic growth through tourism and other community activities, they instill in us a sense of place that connects us to the rich, diverse history of our region and the deep roots of our communities,” Congressman Tonko said. “For many decades, our Erie Canalway and Hudson River Valley Heritage Areas have delivered economic opportunity and growth for Upstate New York as well as serving to promote community development and engagement. Maintaining and preserving these treasured resources is more important than ever.”

H.R. 1049, the National Heritage Area Act

  • Establishes a streamlined process for creating new National Heritage Areas (NHAs)
  • Creates an evaluation process for existing NHAs that ensures transparency and accountability
  • Modernizes the program to allow for long-term sustainability
  • Defines an oversight structure that will allow these popular sites to independently serve their communities and grow their economies without relying on federal support

Heritage areas are a major contributor to U.S. cultural tourism. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates heritage areas contribute more than $192 billion to the nation’s economy every year. There are currently 55 National Heritage Areas across the country, including the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Maurice D. Hinchey Hudson River Valley National Heritage Corridor in the Capital Region.

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