Important development for our area is in the making

Last week, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tom Kaine, along with Representative Rob Wittman introduced legislation to designate Virginia’s Northern Neck (which includes Northumberland County) as a National Heritage Area (NHA).  This designation, if approved, would deliver federal dollars, encourage public-private partnerships, and assign a specific entity – the Northern Neck Tourism Commission – to help protect the Northern Neck’s natural, cultural, scenic, and recreational resources.

Under this proposed legislation, the NHA designation would apply to the land between the Potomac River and Rappahannock River, spanning King George, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland counties.

Senator Warner stated: “As many Virginians already know, the Northern Neck is reflective of the Commonwealth’s unique history, with deep connections to eight Algonquian tribes and a number of American statesmen, including James Madison, James Monroe, and George Washington.  I’m proud to introduce this legislation to help protect the rich history and unique geography of the Northern Neck and leverage federal dollars to spur long-lasting economic opportunity in the region.”

Senator Kaine added: “Virginia’s Northern Neck is a source of pride, history, and economic development for the Commonwealth.   The beauty and cultural significance of the region attract tourism, strengthening Virginia’s economy and supporting jobs. I’m proud to introduce this piece of legislation to highlight the Northern Neck’s natural beauty and cultural assets, which will bring visitors and economic development.”

Representative Wittman stated: “The Northern Neck’s lands and waters showcase a natural beauty unlike any other. As a longtime resident of the Northern Neck, I know our heritage is unique and worthy of preserving.  With a history profoundly intertwined with that of the entire nation, it’s only right for us to recognize the Northern Neck as a National Heritage Area. I’m proud to join Senators Warner and Kaine in introducing this bipartisan legislation.” 

The National Park Service – which awards the National Heritage Area designation – conducted an NHA Feasibility Study which concluded that the Northern Neck’s themes, local traditions, and natural and historic resources retain “sufficient integrity and opportunities for public engagement” to be eligible for an NHA designation.

Under this proposed legislation, and as approved by the NPS study, the heritage area would be managed by the Northern Neck Tourism Commission, which would serve as the NHA’s local coordinating entity.

If this legislation passes, it would make federal funding available to the region and empower the Northern Neck Tourism Commission to carry out an area management plan, that would include:

  • Protecting and restoring relevant historic sites and building;
  • Carrying out programs and projects that recognize, protect, and enhance important resources;
  • Developing recreational and educational opportunities in the area;
  • Establishing and maintaining interpretive exhibits and programs;
  • Promoting a wide range of partnerships among the federal government, state, tribal and local governments, organizations, and individuals;
  • Increasing public awareness and appreciation for natural, historical, scenic, and cultural resources in the area; and
  • Ensuring that clear, consistent, and appropriate signs identifying points of public access and sires of interest are posted throughout the area

If our region is designated as a National Heritage Area, we can expect to see an increase in tourism and national interest in our area because of the region’s unique part in America’s early history as well as our natural beauty.

The legislation introduced by Warner, Kaine and Wittman has not yet been assigned a bill number — here is a link to the legislation as introduced and a link to Senator Warner’s announcement of the bipartisan legislation.  Here is a brief description by the National Park Service of a National Heritage Area

IF YOU OWN PROPERTY IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND LIVE IN ANOTHER STATE OR ANOTHER VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, please read the bill and if you agree that our region should be designated a National Heritage Area,  contact your US Senator and Representative and ask them to support this legislation.