The United States House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would create something called “The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area” in central Illinois.
United States Representative Ray LaHood (R-Peoria) explained why he introduced the bill:
The legacy of Abraham Lincoln is so interwoven with the history of Illinois—and especially the central part of our state—that it is only right that we create this Heritage Area as we are on the cusp of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 2009. There are dozens of sites throughout the 42 counties of this Heritage Area that have significant ties to Lincoln. This federal designation will allow us to tie these sites together to better convey to future generations the impact that Abraham Lincoln has had on our country, and the influence that Illinois had on Lincoln.
I am extremely proud that I represent the very same 11 counties which Abraham Lincoln represented during his single term in Congress. I could not think of a better way to commemorate the Lincoln Bicentennial than by creating this Heritage Area.
The Senate will now consider the bill.
Here are a few more details:
The legislation authorizes annual federal funding of $1 million for up to 15 years. This funding would allow for grants to be awarded to entities seeking to carry out the mission of the Heritage Area. Any funding awarded must be matched dollar-for-dollar in state, local or private funds.
Once this bill becomes law, the first step for the Abraham Lincoln Heritage Area will be to create a management plan containing a resource inventory, goals and strategies, potential funding sources, and an interpretative and business plan. The process will include significant public involvement. The management plan must be completed and approved by the National Park Service before matching funds are released for specific projects.
The legislation also designates the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition (LFLHC) as the management entity for the new Heritage Area. Looking for Lincoln is a 501c3 organization which has been in existence for almost nine years. LFLHC works with a consortium of central Illinois communities and historic sites that have significant Lincoln history in common. LFLHC helps communities enhance and improve the interpretation of their Lincoln historic sites, and then provides marketing support to those that have “visitor-ready” sites.
The Heritage Area includes the following Illinois counties: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Dewitt, Douglas, Edgar, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Jersey, Knox, LaSalle, Logan, McLean, McDonough, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Mason, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Peoria, Piatt, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermillion, Warren and Woodford.
Honestly, I don’t really know what to think of the plan. LaHood says the idea evolved during discussions with the Lincoln Heritage Coalition board, which is led by Nicky Stratton, who does magnificent work. I suppose federal dollars to help promote local tourism is a good thing too, but I still want to learn more about this new geo-historical entity.
Perhaps more of the details will emerge when the Senate begins to consider the bill?