Northern RI – Officials with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. celebrated the passage of the National Heritage Area Act this week, a federal bill which makes the organization eligible for continued funding and support.
The bill, which had the full support of the congressional delegations from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, passed the House on Thursday, Dec. 22, by a bipartisan vote of 326 yes and 95 no, and has been sent to President Joe Biden for signature. A day earlier, the bill was approved unanimously in the U.S. Senate, with Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island leading the four senators who represent the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
The corridor spans 25 communities from Worcester, Mass. to Providence, including the towns of Burrillville, North Smithfield and Glocester. First established in 1986, the national park recently observed its 36th birthday, and passage of the bill makes it eligible for continued federal funding.
The bill requires a standard for the designation of National Heritage Areas and establishes a National Heritage Area System through which the Department of the Interior may furnish technical and financial assistance to local coordinating entities, such as Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc., to support the establishment, development and continuity.
The legislation extends the National Heritage Areas for 15 years through September of 2037 and also designated seven new NHAs, adding robust protection for private property rights.
BHC, Inc., a driving force behind the creation of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, notes that the Blackstone River, the spine of the corridor, is much cleaner today than it has been in many years, with dramatic reductions in pollution. Paddlers now have 17 put-ins to access the scenic beauty of the river. The well-used Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway between Worcester and Providence is nearly half complete.
BHC, Inc. is coordinating efforts in both states to finish the project.
“These natural byways are tremendous assets to the quality of life of valley communities,” noted a release from BHC. “Our many programs provide paddling and biking experiences for people of all ages and abilities.”
“BHC tells an unmatched story of cultural evolution in partnership with dozens of local organizations and communities,” said Marketing Director Bonnie Combs. “Through wayfinding signs, interpretive panels, brochures, exhibits, and five heritage centers, BHC recognizes the past and points us to the future.”
The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, one of the country’s newest national parks, celebrates the story of innovation that changed how people worked and lived from the earliest days of the country to the present day. BHC manages the park’s award-winning Volunteers-In-Parks program and is the only federally-designated partner to the new park, which is based at the Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark in Pawtucket.
To learn more about the BHC, visit blackstoneheritagecorridor.org.