As seen on Livingston County News
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, R-Canandaigua, has introduced legislation that designates the Finger Lakes as a National Heritage Area.
Additional original cosponsors include Congressman Joe Morelle (NY-25), Congressman Nick Langworthy (NY-23), and Congressman Anthony D'Esposito (NY-04). Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led this legislation in the Senate.
National Heritage Areas are established by Congress to “recognize a region’s natural, cultural, or historic significance.” Unlike national parks, NHA’s are large, populated living areas that collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs. The counties included in the legislation are Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates.
“Spanning from Cayuga County to Livingston County, the Finger Lakes region boast a wealth of cultural heritage and natural beauty, making it a fitting candidate for designation as a National Heritage Area,” said Tenney in a news release. “Securing this designation for the Finger Lakes will promote economic growth through tourism all while ensuring that the region’s rich history and stories are preserved for future generations to come. I am honored to have introduced this bill today and look forward to seeing our region receive the recognition it deserves.”
David LeFeber, chairman of the Livingston County Board of Supervisors, said Tenney's legislation was "a significant step toward acknowledging the importance of this region on a national scale."
"For Livingston County, the Finger Lakes are not just our home, but a special place of natural beauty and cultural heritage that is interwoven throughout our community," LeFeber said in a news release. "I strongly support this bill and believe it will further strengthen our collective commitment to stewardship and appreciation of the Finger Lakes region for generations to come,” said Chairman of the Livingston County Board of Supervisors, David LeFeber.
The effort to designate the Finger Lakes as a National Heritage Area began in 2017 and formally launched in 2019 when a bill sponsored by Gillibrand requiring the National Park Service to conduct a feasibility study was signed into law. The agency then began working on the study.
COVID-19 disrupted that work, but the National Park Service issued its final report in July. The agency concluded the Finger Lakes region meets the criteria for a national heritage area designation. The criteria included “an assemblage of natural, historic and cultural resources” and a territory that “reflects traditions, customs, beliefs and folklife that are a valuable part of the national story.”