Southern MD Designated National Heritage Area

The Southern Maryland National Heritage Area Act was passed by Congress, bringing about an important designation to boost awareness of Southern Maryland.

Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet (Source: Charles County Government)

According to a Destination Southern Maryland press release, The Southern Maryland National Heritage Area Act was included in the recently passed year-end government spending bill and will be signed into law by President Biden. This designation recognizes the unique significance of Southern Maryland to the nation’s history. Becoming the Southern Maryland National Heritage Area will bring together federal, state, and private resources to promote heritage tourism, conserve natural landscapes, and enhance the local economy. The legislation authorizes $10 million in appropriations, of which not more than $1 million may be used in any fiscal year. The legislation was sponsored by Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Van Hollen (D-MD) and by Congressman Hoyer (D-MD) in the House of Representatives.

The Southern Maryland National Heritage Area will include Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, and southern Prince George’s counties. Becoming a national heritage area will raise the national and international profile of the region. It was in Southern Maryland, for the very first time, that any type of religious freedom was put into law. It is where the separation of church and state began. Additionally, the Piscataway, the Indigenous people, have survived against all odds and are creating a new legacy.

In general, 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.

Southern Maryland is home to the National Marine Sanctuary of Mallows Bay-Potomac River, with its ghost fleet of sunken ships. Southern Maryland includes a UNESCO Slave Route Project Site (in memory of “resistance, liberty, and heritage”), National Park Service Network to Freedom sites, the National Religious Freedom Byway, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and sites involved with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, WWI and WWII. Southern Maryland continues to make history in innovation and technology and is where the first Mercury Astronauts trained. The State of Maryland began in Southern Maryland in 1634, and the original fort from that time period has been discovered in Historic St. Mary’s City.

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