Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that her legislation to take the first step towards designating the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area has passed the Senate as a provision in the just-passed Natural Resources Management Act. Gillibrand’s legislation, the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area Study Act, authorizes the National Park Service to conduct a feasibility study in Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates counties. Gillibrand has pushed to designate the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area in 2015, when she first announced her legislation in Red Jacket Park on the bank of Keuka Lake.
“I’m very excited that my legislation to begin the process of designating the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area has passed the Senate,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Finger Lakes Region is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in our state, and it is one of our country’s great historical and cultural treasures. A National Heritage Area designation would help further conserve and protect the region’s natural resources and attract even more people from all over the world to the Finger Lakes. I was proud to fight for this provision, and will continue work with my House colleagues to ensure that this legislation is passed into law.”
“We cannot thank Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Reed enough for their ongoing efforts to secure the needed authorization for this feasibility study. This study will determine if the Finger Lakes region could qualify to be added to the prestigious list of 49 current National Heritage Areas. Given our rich background, national resources and historical connection to the nation’s growth, we are hopeful that the next step will be the designation of the Finger Lakes as a National Heritage Area. This will give the region the National recognition that is so deserves and to secure this needed authorization for the study during our 100th year of service to the region makes it all the more poignant,” said Cynthia Kimble, President- Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance.
“I am grateful that the United States Senate has voted to move forward to authorize the research needed to designate the Finger Lakes as a National Heritage Area. I believe it will benefit all of us that call this nation’s treasure home, with a chance to get the word out about the natural beauty, the craft of local food and beverages and the contributions made in history that helped build this country,” said Joseph S. Gober Jr., Owner of Americana Vineyards and Chair of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance Board.
A feasibility study is the first step in determining whether a region has the resources and local capacity necessary to be designated as a National Heritage Area. Designating the Finger Lakes region as a National Heritage Area would help boost local tourism and conserve and protect the region’s natural, historic, and cultural resources. According to the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance’s data from 2017, tourism in the region’s 14 counties generates over $3 billion in business and employs 58,242 people. The Finger Lakes region is home to more than 400 registered historic sites and landmarks, 135 museums, 80 art galleries, 14 professional theater companies, 100 wineries, 300 bed and breakfast facilities, and 650 miles of shoreline.
A National Heritage Area designation would help give the Finger Lakes Region the platform it needs to leverage funds and secure long-term, sustainable support for heritage conservation and economic development. By incorporating community input, NHAs turn every $1.00 of federal investment into $5.50 for jobs and government revenue that helps boost local tourism while protecting the region’s precious natural, historic, and cultural resources.
NHAs are a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development. Through public-private partnerships, NHA entities support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, and educational projects. The NHA program currently includes 49 heritage areas across the country, including the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership in New York, and is administered by the National Parks Service.