Gillibrand pushes for national designation
FINGER LAKES-U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D--New York) announced a new push Monday, June 22, to designate the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area (NHA). Gillibrand introduced legislation that would authorize the National Parks Service to take the first step towards designating the region as a National Heritage Area by conducting a feasibility study in Schuyler Yates, Steuben, Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Seneca, Tioga, Tompkins and Wayne Counties.
Gillibrand mentioned it usually takes a few years before an NHA designation becomes official, adding this is a first step in the process. Gillibrand said designating the region as a National Heritage Area would help boost local tourism while conserving and protecting the region's natural, historic and cultural resources.
"The Finger Lakes region is a national treasure that should be designated a National Heritage Area," Gillibrand said. "Thousands of tourists come from around the world to visit the Finger Lakes region to experience the beautiful landscape, rich history and culture, and enjoy all that our local businesses have to offer. Designating the region a National Heritage Area would help boost local tourism while conserving and protecting the region's previous natural, historic and cultural resources."
NHAs are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. Through their resources, NHAs tell nationally important stories that celebrate the nation's diverse heritage. NHA entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs.
According to a February letter from Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean to members of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, between 1996 and 2011, the Hudson River Valley NHA received $7,843,501 in National Park Service (NPS) funding, which was matched with $22.4 million from non-federal sources.
"The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance is thrilled to see such an important initiative moving forward for the tourism region of the Finger Lakes," said Cynthia Kimble, president of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance (FTLA). "A National Heritage Area designation will shine a spotlight on the beauty and rich historic culture of our region."
According to the FLTA, tourism in the region's 14 counties was a $2.8 billion business in 2013 that employs 58,384 people. Tourism is a vital economic anchor in the Finger Lakes region, which is home to more than 400 registered historic sites and landmarks, 135 museums, 80 art galleries, 14 professional theater companies, 100 wineries, 300 bed and breakfast facilities and 650 miles of shoreline.
"The board recognized that we live in a historically and culturally significant region that needs to be recognized and preserved," said Ken McConnell, FTLA board chair and owner of Barrister's Bed and Breakfast. "It is important to us that this area's beauty is preserved for future generations. Fortunately, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and others have the same goals and are initiating the process to have the Finger Lakes designated as a National Heritage Area."
NHAs are a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development. Through public-private partnerships, NHA entities support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism and educational projects. The NHA program is administered by the National Parks Service and currently includes 49 heritage areas across the country, including the Erie Canalway NHA, Niagara Falls NHA, Hudson River Valley NHA, and Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership in New York.