WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (Both D-Md.) today filed updated legislation to designate Southern Maryland as a National Heritage Area (NHA) to further commemorate, conserve and promote important natural, scenic, historic, cultural and recreational resources in St. Mary’s, Calvert, Charles and Prince George’s counties. Senator Chris Van Hollen is an original co-sponsor of the legislation, S. 825.
National Heritage Areas are partnerships among the National Park Service, states and local communities in which the Park Service supports state and local conservation through federal recognition, seed money and technical assistance. Unlike lands within the National Park System, which are federally owned and managed, lands within heritage areas typically remain in state, local, or private ownership – or a combination thereof.
“A Southern Maryland National Heritage Area will boost awareness and federal support of a part of the state whose resources need to be better protected, whose story needs to be comprehensively told, and whose beauty needs to be more widely appreciated,” said Senator Cardin. “This updated legislation will help direct federal seed money to spark the growth of programs and partnerships designed to boost a wide range of tourism and historic and cultural preservation initiatives.”
“Designating Southern Maryland as a Natural Heritage Area is an important way to preserve and commemorate our treasured natural and cultural resources,” said Congressman Hoyer. “This legislation will provide the federal funding needed to enhance conservation efforts, fuel local economic growth, and support our communities, and I’m proud to join in reintroducing it this year.”
“Southern Maryland has a vast array of natural, historical, and cultural sites. Designating a Southern Maryland National Heritage Area will help more Americans appreciate and experience all it has to offer, while bringing more federal funding to support and conserve this vital region of our state. I’m glad to join my Maryland colleagues in reintroducing this legislation to boost federal resources for Southern Maryland and ultimately drive opportunity and economic development in our state,” said Senator Van Hollen.
The largest site of the original Maryland colony, St. Mary’s City was the seat of colonial government until 1708. Religious freedom was first codified in 1649 with “An Act Concerning Religion” (or, the Toleration Act) that provided the foundation for the religious liberty clauses in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In addition, the area holds historic significance as the location where the first person of African descent served in a legislature in the U.S. (Mathias de Sousa, 1642); the first woman petitioned for suffrage (Margaret Brent, 1648); UNESCO designated a Slave Route Site of Remembrance; and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe gained recognition of their ancestral home.
This heritage area is also the location of the National Religious Freedom Byway, Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and sites related to the American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, American Civil War, WWI and WWII, and the Project Mercury human spaceflight program. Most recently, the area includes Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary.
The legislation introduced by Senator Cardin and Congressman Hoyer authorizes $10 million in appropriations, of which not more than $1 million may be used in any fiscal year, with a 50% maximum federal cost-share.
Congress has established 55 National Heritage Areas since 1984. Maryland currently is home to one intrastate and two interstate National Heritage Areas, the Baltimore NHA, Journey through Hallowed Ground NHA (Md., Penn., Va., W.Va.), and Appalachian Forest NHA (Md., W.Va.).