Today, U.S. Senator Angus King, Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, and Representative Jared Golden announced that their bipartisan, bicameral bill to designate a Downeast Maine National Heritage Area has passed Congress and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins and Representative Chellie Pingree, will designate all of Hancock and Washington counties as an area with national importance, qualifying the counties for additional federal investment and helping to drive economic activity to the rural Maine region. The bill specifically recognizes the contributions of Downeast Maine’s agriculture industry – including wild blueberry growers – as well as the impacts of heritage fishing and forestry.
“For much of the year, the rocky coasts of Downeast Maine greet the first rays of sunshine to reach the United States,” said Senators King and Collins and Representatives Golden and Pingree. “The region literally starts America’s day, and its rugged coastline, rolling mountains and lush forests are a fundamental part of the American identity. There is nowhere more deserving of a heritage area designation. Making Hancock and Washington counties a National Heritage Area will open the door for critical federal funding, and drive important economic activity and investments to support Downeast communities and the hardworking, resilient people who call these counties home. We are deeply grateful to our colleagues in both chambers who helped us get this bill past the finish line and we look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this new designation.”
“The people of Downeast Maine are fiercely proud of their heritage and are motivated to develop quality opportunities that carry us into the future while being rooted in our historic values,” said Crystal Hitchings, Director of Community Infrastructure at Sunrise County Economic Council. “Designation as a National Heritage Area provides Downeast communities with more resources to support coordinated efforts in economic and community development and education initiatives that matter locally.”
National Heritage Areas are designations from Congress where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes where communities collaborate with the National Park Service to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and economies. These areas qualify for additional federal funding, and work through public-private partnerships to support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, new and traditional industries, and educational projects. Leveraging funds and long-term support for projects, these partnerships foster pride of place and an enduring stewardship. There are currently 55 National Heritage Areas across the country.