Watkins Glen, NY – Standing at the Lakeside Park and Pavilion, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Congressman Tom Reed today announced a new push to designate the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Area. Gillibrand introduced legislation that would authorize the National Parks Service to take the first step towards designating the region as a National Heritage Area by conducting a feasibility study in Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates counties. Designating the region as a National Heritage Area would help boost local tourism and conserve and protect the region’s natural, historic and cultural resources.
“The Finger Lakes Region is a national treasure that should be designated a National Heritage Area,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Thousands of tourists come from around the world to visit the Finger Lakes region to experience the beautiful landscape, rich history and culture, and enjoy all that our local businesses have to offer. Designating the region a National Heritage Area would help boost local tourism while conserving and protecting the region’s previous natural, historic and cultural resources.”
“Protecting our natural resources for generations to come is an important initiative of mine. I appreciate conserving the natural beauty of what’s right here in our backyard. Finding a commonsense approach to preserving our heritage and growing our local economy is vital and the Finger Lakes region should be designated as a National Heritage Area,” said Congressman Reed.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the Finger Lakes tourism industry. We are thrilled to have Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Reed reintroduce the legislation that requests the needed funding for the first step in this process, the feasibility study,” said Cynthia Kimble, President, Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance.
According to the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance tourism in the region’s 14 counties was a $2.9 billion business in 2015 that employs 59,293 people. Tourism is a vital economic anchor in the Finger Lakes region which 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 to 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 boosts 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.