Maryland Heritage Areas Program
Maryland’s Heritage Areas are locally designated and State certified regions where public and private partners make commitments to preserving historical, cultural and natural resources for sustainable economic development through heritage tourism. At the local level, Heritage Areas focus community attention on often under-appreciated aspects of history, living culture, and distinctive natural areas, thus fostering a stronger sense of pride in the places where Marylanders live and work. The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) does this through targeted State financial and technical assistance within a limited number of areas designated as “Certified Heritage Areas.”
Each of Maryland’s current twelve Certified Heritage Areas is defined by a distinct focus or theme that makes that place or region different from other areas in the state. These distinctive places exhibit tangible evidence of the area’s heritage in historic buildings and districts, distinctive cultural traditions, singular natural landscapes, as well as other resources such as museums, parks, and traditional ways of life as revealed in food, music, and art. This “special flavor” of each Heritage Area attracts not only out-of-state visitors, but locals who are also looking for an experience that is different than “back home.”
The program recognizes that a successful Heritage Area needs to have a viable economy which recognizes the value of the area’s unique heritage resources, and through State, government, and private sector partnerships strives to preserve and enhance the resources that make the area attractive to visitors. By investing public dollars to create tourism-related products, spark matching private investment, and motivate local leadership, MHAA seeks to promote a balanced, sustainable level of heritage tourism that strengthens communities and improves the state’s quality of life.
For more information, email or call Richard Hughes, MHAA Administrator , or (410) 514-7685.
The Maryland Heritage Areas program is governed by the 19 member Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA), which includes representatives from 9 state agencies including the Departments of Planning, Natural Resources, Business & Economic Development, Agriculture, Education, Transportation, Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the State Historic Preservation Office to encourage collaborative work and cooperationin the diverse interests of history, culture, natural resources, agriculture, recreation, economic development, tourism, and education. An additional ten members with expertise in heritage-related fields are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
MHAAis an independent unit within the Executive branch of State government, and is administered by the Maryland Historical Trust, an agency of the Maryland Department of Planning.
Certified Heritage Areas
For contact information for each heritage area, click the links below:
- Anacostia Trails Heritage Area
- Baltimore City Heritage Area
- Canal Place Heritage Area
- Four Rivers Heritage Area
- Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area
- Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area
- Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Area
- Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway
- Montgomery County Heritage Area
- Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area
- Southern Maryland Heritage Area
- Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area
Becoming a Maryland Certified Heritage Area is a two-stage process. First, communities prepare an application to the MHAA to become a Recognized Heritage Area. Once a Heritage Area has been “Recognized” it becomes eligible for State grant assistance for up to 50% of the cost of preparing a Management Plan setting forth the strategies, projects, programs, actions, and partnerships that will be involved in achieving its goals. Preparation of a management plan approved by the MHAA is a requirement for receiving “Certified” Heritage Area status.
Once a Heritage Area has been “Certified” it becomes eligible for:
- Matching grants of up to 50% to local jurisdictions and non-profit organizations for planning, design, interpretation, and programming.
- Matching grants of up to 50% to the certified heritage area management entity to provide operating assistance for up to the first ten years following certification.
- Matching grants of up to 50% to the certified heritage area management entity and heritage area destination marketing organizations to assist with heritage area-wide marketing activities.
- Broad program support from State government.
Matching Grants: Non-profits and local governments are eligible to apply to the MHAA for heritage tourism project grants that must be matched, at minimum, dollar for dollar.
Loans to small businesses to create or enhance heritage tourism products and services.
Marketing grants to Heritage Area and Destination Marketing Organizations to market Heritage Area sites and events to visitors and the tourism and hospitality industry.
Operating support to local Heritage Area management entities to build partnerships among heritage institutions, enhance the quality of heritage tourism product, and provide technical assistance to communities and partner organizations.
Eligibility to apply for the Maryland Heritage Preservation Tax Credit. Buildings in Heritage Areas do not have to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places if the MHAA certifies the project as having a significant heritage tourism impact
This page updated: October 7, 2013