National Heritage Areas
Images from Erie Canal, Yuma, and Hudson Valley NHAs

Becoming a National Heritage Area

National Heritage Area designation typically follows a two-step process - completion of a feasibility study and introduction of authorizing legislation. Prior to undertaking a feasibility study and developing legislation please review the Feasibility Study Frequently Asked Questions and contact a National Heritage Area Program Coordinator in your region.

Feasibility Study Process

The National Park Service (NPS) recommends that community members or organizations interested in National Heritage Area (NHA) designation undertake a feasibility study (rather than completing an application or nomination) to assess whether (1) the landscape has an assemblage of natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources that, when linked together, tell a nationally important story; (2) opportunities exist for increasing public access to and understanding of key natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources, (3) an organization exists that has the financial and organizational capacity to coordinate heritage area activities;and (4) support for NHA designation exists within the region. NHA feasibility studies can be prepared by community members, a consultant, or the NPS.

Feasibility Study Guidelines

The feasibility study is an analytical document. Through analysis, some organizations or community members may discover that heritage area designation is not the right strategy for their future goals. Alternately, it may be determined that NHA designation is appropriate given the resources and nationally important story, but it is not the best approach at this time because all the necessary elements (i.e. organizational capacity, partners or community support) are not yet in place.

The NPS recommends that draft studies be sent to the appropriate NPS regional office and the NHA Program Office in Washingto DC for review. Ultimately, the feasbility study provides NPS and the United States Congress with information regarding the appropriateness of designating the landscape as a National Heriage Area.

Legislation

The United States Congress designates regions of the country as National Heritage Areas. The NPS, as the federal body charged with managing the NHA program, frequently testifies as to whether or not a region has the resources and local financial and organizational capacity to carry-out the responsibilities that come with designation.