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More about heritage areas

A heritage area is a region in which residents, businesses, and governments join together to preserve, promote and celebrate their heritage, culture, and natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.


a splendid view of the Hudson River near West Point, New York

Hudson Valley National Heritage Area,
New York

In heritage areas, nature and culture shape the landscape.

Congress has designated 24 National Heritage Areas around the country in which conservation, interpretation and heritage tourism activities are planned and implemented through partnerships among federal, state, and local governments, residents and the private sector. A "management entity" named in the designation legislation is charged with coordinating the partners' voluntary actions. This management entity may be a local governmental agency, nonprofit organization, or an independent Federal commission. The National Park Service provides technical and financial assistance for a limited time (usually 10-15 years) following designation.

A National Heritage Area contains dynamic, evolving and multi-layered landscapes that reflect the histories and stories of residents both past and present. A national heritage area is a place in which the land and the local environment, over time, have shaped traditions and cultural values in the people who live there, and where the residents' use of the land has, in turn, created and sustained a landscape that reflects their cultures.

Once designated, the land in heritage areas remains in private hands (although existing local, state and national parks are commonly included and actively partner in heritage area activities). Featured programs and activities such as tours, museums, and festivals take place through voluntary efforts coordinated by the areas' management entities. Designation as a National Heritage Area does not involve Federal regulation of private property.

Each National Heritage Area is a new and ambitious experiment in ways to conserve and celebrate the nation's natural and cultural heritage. The kinds of visitor experiences and opportunities within and between heritge areas vary widely. The areas possess a variety of resources and are at different stages of implementing their own plans for scenic byways, walking and cycling trails, wild, scenic, and recreation rivers, interpretive and educational activities, and rehabilitation of historic buildings and districts.

National Heritage Areas may not look like America's National Parks--they may not have an obvious visitor center or park rangers, and some areas are too new to have signs and other visitor aids in place. But the visitor who takes the time to explore a National Heritage Area will discover a rich and complex array of places, experiences and activities that recount distinct aspects of the American experience.


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