U.S. Reps. Trahan and Moulton Take Steps to Save Essex National Heritage Area

Appearing at a 2017 ceremony at Methuen Memorial Music Hall are Essex Heritage Chief Operating Officer William Steelman, Whittier Birthplace Trustees Arthur H. Veasey and Jay Cleary and Essex Heritage CEO Annie Harris. (Courtesy photograph.)

Since 1996, the Essex National Heritage Area has presented the region’s history, nature and culture as a form of national park, but its federal funding could end within the next two years.

Yesterday, U.S. Reps. Lori Trahan and Seth Moulton took the first steps toward extending the life of its guiding organization beyond Sept. 30, 2021. They introduced the Essex National Heritage Area Permanency Act. The bill would eliminate the federal funding end date and the total budget cap for the Essex National Heritage Area.

Trahan explains, “From Lawrence to Haverhill to Andover to Gloucester, the Essex National Heritage Area has helped our region develop and grow to the benefit of Bay Staters and visitors alike. Permanently renewing the authorization of this crucial funding is necessary for the continued growth of the 34 cities and towns within the region.”

Trahan said the extension is also a smart investment since studies show that every $1 Congress invests in a National Heritage Area leads to $5.50 in local economic activity. A statement said Congress’ investment in the Essex National Heritage Area supports about 2,000 jobs and generates more than $150 million in local economic activity. That economic activity leads to $14.3 million in tax revenue.

Absent federal legislation, Essex Heritage would exist in name only, without any federal funding to operate in current form.

Essex National Heritage Director Annie Harris said, “Lifting the sunset and cap on the federal funds that we can receive will help our long-term planning and growth.”

Haverhill is represented on the organization’s board of trustees by Arthur Veasey, Whittier Birthplace trustee.

The Essex National Heritage Area spans 500 square-miles and connects 34 cities and towns from Lawrence to Haverhill to Gloucester and to Lynn. Since it was created in 1996, Congress has been authorized to invest up to $17 million in the Area. Essex Heritage runs historic and cultural education programs for residents, visitors and schools. It has a summer jobs program that employs young people at two National Park Sites that teaches them trade-based skills and civic responsibility. It also maintains the region’s Essex Coastal Scenic Byway program which brings tourists to the region’s historic towns and cities.

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