October 05, 2020

Van Hollen, Cardin, Hoyer Announce Legislation to Make Southern Maryland a New National Heritage Area

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (all D-Md.) today announced legislation to designate Southern Maryland as a National Heritage Area (NHA) to further commemorate, conserve and promote important natural, scenic, historic, cultural and recreational resources in St. Mary’s, Calvert, Charles and Prince George’s counties. 

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.

The largest site of the original Maryland colony, St. Mary’s City was the seat of colonial government until 1708. Religious freedom was first codified in 1649 with “An Act Concerning Religion” (or, the Toleration Act) that provided the foundation for the religious liberty clauses in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

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. 

The legislation announced today authorizes $10 million in appropriations, of which not more than $1 million may be used in any fiscal year, with a 50% maximum federal cost-share.

Congress has established 55 National Heritage Areas since 1984. Maryland currently is home to one intrastate and two interstate National Heritage Areas, the Baltimore NHA, Journey through Hallowed Ground NHA (Md., Penn., Va., W.Va.), and Appalachian Forest NHA (Md., W.Va.).