What is a National Heritage Area?
A National Heritage Area is a place designated by Congress where the natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources are considered uniquely representative of the American experience. As of November 2010, there are 49 National Heritage Areas located in 32 states.
What is the Baltimore National Heritage Area?
The Baltimore National Heritage Area is one of only a handful of National Heritage Areas located primarily in an urban environment. Baltimore features a uniquely rich concentration of historical, cultural, and natural resources of national significance. Its communities provide exceptional environments where generations of Baltimoreans have lived, worked and played. These neighborhoods are also particularly appealing and rewarding to visitors who want to experience and explore Baltimore beyond the attractions of the Inner Harbor.
The heart of the heritage area is at the center of the city and the Inner Harbor. From this central location, the heritage area expands to include sections of the city with high densities of historic, cultural, and natural attractions for both visitors and residents.
When did Baltimore receive this designation?
On March 30, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. This law designated the Baltimore National Heritage Area along with eight other new National Heritage Areas.
Before national designation, the State of Maryland designated the city's dense collection of cultural and natural resources as a recognized heritage area (1997) and a certified heritage area (2001).
What is the boundary of the Baltimore National Heritage Area?
The boundary of the heritage area was drawn during an 18-month long planning process. It includes those portions of Baltimore with an especially dense concentration of significant historical, cultural, and natural resources. The communities included were already providing a rich visitor experience or were seen as having the capacity to provide such an experience within five years of certification as a National Heritage Area.
How is the Baltimore National Heritage Area managed?
Originally managed as a department under the Office of the Mayor, the heritage area is now managed through the non-profit Baltimore National Heritage Area Association, Inc. The association maintains strong partnerships with the city of Baltimore and Visit Baltimore (the city's convention and visitors bureau). Jeffrey Buchheit serves as executive director of the association.
The National Park Service provides technical, planning, and limited financial assistance to the national heritage area. NPS is a partner and advisor, leaving decision-making authority in the hands of Baltimore's residents, organizations, and institutions.
How do heritage areas work?
National Heritage Areas expand on traditional approaches to resource stewardship by supporting large-scale, community centered initiatives that connect local citizens to the preservation and planning process.
The Baltimore National Heritage Area works to spur economic development using sustainable heritage tourism as a key tool. Heritage tourism is also used to promote historic preservation and conservation. While reaching out to tourists is important, interpretative and educational components help communicate Baltimore's history to its residents.
An important component of the heritage area's work is the development of heritage trails that highlight specific Baltimore neighborhoods and their historic places and institutions. Heritage Walk and the Mount Vernon Cultural Walk are the two oldest urban trails. In 2010, the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail was unveiled, highlighting the historic African American neighborhood that played a crucial role in the civil rights movement. Additional trails are in the planning stages to showcase the Fell's Point, Federal Hill/Sharp-Leadenhall, and West Side neighborhoods.
How important is tourism to Baltimore and its neighborhoods?
Tourism is Baltimore's third largest industry. The economic livelihood of tens of thousands of Baltimoreans depends upon visitor decisions to come to the city, stay longer, make return visits and give positive reviews to friends and family.
Cultural heritage tourism, travel by those seeking to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past, is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. According to travel industry surveys, the average U.S. traveler spends $457 and about four nights away from home per trip. Visitors who included cultural heritage sites and activities stay longer and spend more: more than $600 and about five nights per trip.
Baltimore and cultural heritage tourism are a perfect fit. Tourism is generally a clean industry that provides an exceptionally strong boost to economic and community revitalization efforts. Visitor spending helps to diversify a neighborhood's economy while preserving the unique character of a community.