The legislation, introduced last Thursday, would make the area eligible for $10 million in program funding with $1 million eligible for expenditure each fiscal year. National Heritage Areas are partnerships between the National Park Service, and state and local governments. Ownership of heritage areas remains with communities, and the National Park Service provides assistance with federal funds, recognition, and technical help. Many areas throughout southern Maryland have strong historical significance. St. Mary’s City was the largest site of the original Maryland colony, and was the seat of colonial government until 1708.
From Hoyer’s press release:
“I’m proud to introduce this important legislation to designate Southern Maryland as a National Heritage Area and ensure our treasured natural and historic resources are preserved for generations to come,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Our legislation will provide federal funding to support conservation efforts in our region, which in turn will grow our local economy. I thank the Members of the Maryland Delegation for their support of this legislation.”
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.