The Heritage Area program was created by state legislation in 1982.
Long Island, NY - December 14, 2018 - State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle today announced that Governor Cuomo has signed their legislation designating the Peconic Bay Region as a New York State Heritage Area, which includes the towns of East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton, and Southold. Formerly known as the Urban Cultural Park System, the Heritage Area program was created by state legislation in 1982 and delegated to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, in order to preserve and develop places that have special significance to New York State. The program was renamed in 1994 to encompass larger regional areas.
The Heritage Area Program exists as a cooperative effort between state and local governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and grass roots involvement in each participating community. The stated purpose of the program is to designate places where unique qualities of geography, history and culture create a distinctive identity that becomes the focus of the four heritage goals:
Preservation of significant resources;
Education that interprets lessons from the past;
Recreation and leisure activities; and
Economic Revitalization for sustainable communities.
The program boasts that from the Great Lakes to the eastern tip of Long Island, the Heritage Areas encompass some of the state's most significant natural, historic, and cultural resources, as well as the people and programs that keep them vital. Currently, there are nineteen other designated New York State Heritage Areas that include: Albany, Buffalo, RiverSpark, Kingston, Harbor Park, Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, Long Island North Shore, Michigan Street, Niagara Falls, Ossining, High Falls, Sackets Harbor, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Seneca Falls, Susquehanna, Syracuse, Western Erie Canal, and Whitehall.
Each Heritage Area represents one or more significant themes of New York State’s history such as “Labor & Industry,” “Immigration & Migration,” “Defense,” “Natural Environment,” and “Reform Movements,” which both highlight and enhance the unique attributes of each local community. According to the Program, this allows the community itself to be the “park,” dedicated to the preservation of its unique cultural heritage through programs such as ethnic festivals, waterfront walks, lively theater, provocative exhibits, and neighborhood walking tours.
Heritage Areas provide numerous benefits to local communities. Education and outreach programs are often created within schools and for the public. These programs have included classes, historical exhibits, celebrations and festivals, all of which have been shown to result in a significant boost in tourism, which stimulates the local economy and contributes greatly to economic development goals. This could prove to be an asset in offering additional year-round appeal for a largely seasonal tourism industry.
Further, as the Heritage Area program consists of a state and local partnership, this allows access to substantial state funding and grant opportunities to promote the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of the resources that make each Heritage Area so unique and essential. Grants are awarded to local projects through the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation and through the Environmental Protection Fund. This year, there was $19.5 million available to municipalities and not-for-profits for projects that contribute to the acquisition, planning, development, and improvement of parks, historic properties and Heritage Areas.
“The Peconic Bay Region has a rich cultural history with countless unique attributes that certainly meet the preservation goals set forth by the Heritage Area Program. Our museums, landmarks, beautiful beaches, bays, open spaces, farm fields, distinctive dining options, wineries and booming downtowns attract thousands of visitors and seasonal residents each year,” stated Assemblyman Fred Thiele, “I am greatly looking forward to the further enrichment of our community that this designation will provide through new partnerships, united preservation efforts, and economic development initiatives.”
Senator Ken LaValle said, “The Peconic Bay Region is among the most beautiful areas in New York State. The area has great cultural, historic and natural resources. This new designation as the “Peconic Bay Heritage Area” will ensure that we honor and preserve the regions history, spur compatible economic growth and improve planning for the future.”
Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo said, “The designation of the Peconic Bay Region as a New York State Heritage Area is a tremendous benefit to us. This will allow further access to resources and funding which will enhance our efforts toward preservation, promotion and management of the East End. This unique honor is a wonderful compliment to our communities and businesses."