WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today led the successful effort to reject cuts to America’s heritage areas and corridors as part of the stopgap Appropriations bill known as the Continuing Resolution (CR). Reed, the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, was among the Senators voting 54-45 to reject Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) amendment to cut $8 million from the National Park Service’s budget for National Heritage Areas to redirect it to other Park Service priorities, which Mr. Coburn identified as including White House tours, despite the fact that the National Park Service is not responsible for public White House tours.
“National heritage areas protect valuable natural and cultural resources and are located throughout the country. They help boost tourism and economic development. I am pleased we were able to beat back this cynical, misguided attempt to strip this funding,” said Reed.
National heritage areas are public-private partnerships designated by Congress to promote and protect historic and culturally significant areas of the country that aren’t officially part of the national park system. There are 49 such areas in the U.S., including the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Area in Rhode Island, which are self-governed and operate in partnership with the National Park Service.
The Senate CR provides funding to help protect these areas and extends the authorizations of 12 national heritage areas -- including the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Area -- so they can continue to receive their partnership grant funding from the National Park Service. These federal grants help fund local visitor centers, educational programs, and environmental restoration projects, creating thousands of local jobs in the process.
The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor was established in 1986.
Senator Reed has led the effort to create a new national historical park within the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. Designating this multi-site area as a national historical park has important economic, environmental, historical, and educational benefits for Rhode Island and the region.
If approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park likely would be run collaboratively through a special partnership that would allow the National Park Service to manage and operate the facilities and provide educational services in the park in partnership with regional and local preservation groups who would lead the efforts to preserve the surrounding rural and agriculture landscape within the existing corridor.
According to the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, to date, more than $25 million has been spent on preserving historic buildings, creating museums, constructing visitor centers, and building permanent exhibits in the Heritage Corridor. Since 2002, Senator Reed helped secured over $11 million in federal funding for the Corridor and an additional $6.9 million for the Blackstone River Valley Bikeway.