Legislation spearheaded by State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle has led to the Peconic Bay Region, which includes the towns of East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton, and Southold, being designated as a New York State Heritage Area.
“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.”
The Heritage Area program, which was previously known as the Urban Cultural Park System, was created by state legislation in 1982 to protect and champion locations that have special significance to the State. Later, the program was delegated to the NYS Office of Parks and it was renamed in 1994 to include larger regional areas.
A cooperative effort between state and local governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and grassroots involvement, the program focuses on highlighting areas 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 Peconic Bay Region is among the most beautiful areas in New York State,” Senator Ken LaValle said. “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 region’s history, spur compatible economic growth and improve planning for the future.”
There are currently 19 additional 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, encompassing several of the State’s most treasured natural, historic, and cultural resources.
Heritage Areas are selected for boasting one or more significant themes of New York State’s history – such as “Labor & Industry,” “Immigration & Migration,” “Defense,” “Natural Environment,” and “Reform Movements.”
There are many benefits of becoming a Heritage Area. Often, education and outreach programs, such as historical exhibits, or celebrations and festivals that attract locals and tourists alike, are established within these areas. Since the Heritage Area program is a state and local collaboration, significant state funding and grant opportunities are available to participants to ensure the safeguarding, restoration, and improvement of assets of the unique Heritage Areas.
There was $19.5 million accessible to municipalities and not-for-profits this year for ventures that add to the investment, planning, growth, and enhancement of parks, historic properties and Heritage Areas.
“The designation of the Peconic Bay Region as a New York State Heritage Area is a tremendous benefit to us,” Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo added. “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.”