Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage) is a non-profit organization that has been federally authorized to manage and oversee the unique heritage resources of the Essex National Heritage Area.
Mission: To preserve and enhance the historic, cultural and natural resources of the Essex National Heritage Area located in Essex County, Massachusetts.
Vision: The historic, cultural and natural resources (and their associated history, organizations, and people) are recognized as critically important to maintaining the quality of life, community vitality, and economic sustainability of Essex County, Massachusetts.
Impact: View a summary of our impact on the region during 2022 HERE.
Essex Heritage owns one property: historic Bakers Island Light Station and we provide limited public access to the site through seasonal boat tours and special programming.
Essex National Heritage Area
The Essex National Heritage Area was created as an act of Congress in 1996 and encompasses the 34 cities and towns of Essex County, Massachusetts. Within this NHA there are two National Parks (Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Saugus Ironworks National Historic Site) and the US Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. There are also several state parks, thousands of acres of conservation land, and numerous museums, historic houses and heritage sites that are open to the public and owned/managed by non-profit organizations and municipal governments.
National Heritage Area Program
National Heritage Areas (NHAs) were established in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan described NHAs as “a new kind of national park” that combined heritage conservation, recreation, and economic development.
The National Heritage Area concept is seen as a cost-effective way to leverage federal funds at a grass-roots level, telling America’s diverse story and conserving the nation’s natural and historic resources. NHAs use public-private partnerships to enhance the quality of life for residents living in their heritage areas and empower their communities to tell their stories.
Today, there are 62 NHAs across 36 states. Unlike National Parks, NHAs are often large, populated regions that span large geographic areas. NHAs do not in any way affect or interfere with the private property rights of their inhabitants.
National Heritage Area Act
On January 5, 2023, President Biden signed the National Heritage Area Act into law. This legislation gave existing National Heritage Areas 15 additional years of authorization and created 6 new Heritage Areas. Learn more about the long process to getting this bill passed HERE.