FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 19, 2021
CONTACT: Tim Biba (Moulton), Tim@mail.house.gov, (202) 400-1845
Washington, D.C. — Today, Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Lori Trahan (D-MA) along with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) re-introduced the Essex National Heritage Area Permanency Act of 2021.
Despite generating more than $150 million in economic impact and supporting thousands of jobs each year, the Essex National Heritage Area will expire on September 30, 2021 if Congress does not extend the Essex National Heritage Area’s ability to receive federal money and raise the total amount of funding for which it is eligible. The bill introduced today would do both.
“Two and a half decades ago, when Members of Congress created the Essex National Heritage Area, they clearly failed to imagine how successful it would be for our economy. If they had, they would never have made the idea temporary,” Rep. Moulton said. “The Essex National Heritage Area brings millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people to New England where they spend money and create jobs. A 25-year track record of success is reason enough to keep it going, but given how hard our tourism economy has been hit by the pandemic, it is even more critical that Congress passes this bill before September.”
Sen. Warren said: “The Essex National Heritage Area protects the Commonwealth’s natural treasures, strengthens our local economy, and provides opportunities for communities and visitors to learn more about our rich culture and history on the North Shore. I am glad to support legislation to continue investing in the partnerships between communities in Massachusetts and throughout New England and the National Park Service to preserve and appreciate these special places for generations to come.”
Sen. Markey said: “The Essex National Heritage Area is a treasure that is enjoyed by Massachusetts residents and millions of visitors who come to experience the history and beauty of Essex County. This legislation will ensure our continued investment in and support for the Essex National Heritage Area, which strengthens our local economies and preserves the North Shore’s rich history, culture, and natural resources.”
Rep. Trahan said: “For families throughout the region, the Essex National Heritage Area continues to be a cultural and economic driver. Not only does it benefit Bay Staters and visitors, but it has also contributed mightily to the growth of communities like Lawrence, Haverhill, and Andover. I'm proud to partner with Congressman Moulton and Senator Markey to introduce this legislation, which is key to ensuring that the Essex National Heritage Area continues receiving the smart federal investments necessary to sustain its critical presence in our communities.”
Annie Harris, the Director of the Essex National Heritage Area said: “This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the designation of the Essex National Heritage Area. A lot has been accomplished but there is much more to be done. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to provide opportunities for all our residents to enjoy the assets available in this area. From identifying places to experience the outdoors to providing on-line materials for remote learning, Essex Heritage has been pleased to serve this region during the pandemic, and we are looking forward to playing an even bigger role as the economy recovers. We are very grateful for the support that the MA delegation is providing.”
The Essex National Heritage Area spans 500 square-miles and connects 34 cities and towns through a region that includes Lawrence, Salem, Lynn, and Gloucester. Since the Essex National Heritage Area’s creation in 1996, Congress has been authorized to invest up to $17 million in the area over the course of the area’s lifespan. The original legislation had a sunset of 2012 for when the Essex Heritage could receive funding.
Congress put caps on spending and an expiration date on National Heritage Areas when it created them in 1996 because the idea that National Heritage Areas would work as designed was unproven. Since then, studies from the National Park Service and several non-government economists have shown overwhelmingly that National Heritage Areas are smart investments. For example, an independent evaluation of Congress’s investment in the Essex National Heritage Area reports that the area supports about 2,000 jobs and generates more than $150 million in local economic activity. That economic activity leads to $14.3 million in tax revenue.
The legislation introduced today would permanently eliminate the sunset provision and also remove the funding cap for the Essex National Heritage Area.
Federal investments in the Essex National Heritage Area are typically used as seed money to attract private sector investments. According to Essex Heritage, the group usually leverages three times the amount it receives from Congress in private investments.
Essex Heritage uses the funds to engage the region’s residents and visitors in the country’s past, and to prepare young people for the future. For example, Essex Heritage runs historic and cultural education programs for residents, visitors and schools. It has a summer jobs program that employs young people at two National Park Sites that teaches them trade-based skills and civic responsibility. It also maintains the region’s Essex Coastal Scenic Byway program which brings tourists to the region’s historic towns and cities.
National Heritage Areas are Congressionally-designated places where “natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.”
The National Heritage Area program is affiliated with the National Park Service, and there are currently 55 heritage areas spread across 34 states.
Unlike National Parks, most National Heritage Areas lie within large communities and are managed by independent, local nonprofits that receive some of their funds from the federal government through the National Park Service. Heritage Areas must match the federal funding with local and private funds. Research from the National Park Service indicates every $1.00 Congress invests in a National Heritage Area leads to $5.50 in local economic activity.