Oil City, PA— President Biden signed legislation today that will reauthorize Northwest PA’s Oil Region National Heritage Area for the next 15 years along with 54 other NHAs throughout the country.
The National Heritage Area Act (S. 1942) passed the Senate with a vote of “unanimous consent” and with overwhelming bipartisan approval in the House of Representatives with a vote of 326-95 in December.
“The passage of S. 1942 is a significant milestone for all Heritage Areas and its bipartisan passage solidifies and validates that National Heritage Areas bring projects, programs, education, and economic redevelopment to the communities we serve,” said John R. Phillips, II, President and CEO of the Oil Region Alliance, managing entity of the Oil Region National Heritage Area. “One of the best benefits for us is that we will be able to strategically plan our projects and activities over a long period and be able to focus on them instead of the next reauthorization deadline.”
The Oil Region National Heritage Area was designated by Congress in 2004 and consists of all of Venango County and Titusville, Hydetown Borough, and Oil Creek Township in Crawford County.
Reauthorization every few years was required for the ORNHA to be eligible for funding from the National Park Service. Until the passage of this National Heritage Area Act, there was no uniformity in the reauthorization schedules of the 55 NHAs in the U.S. Now all NHAs will be on the same timeline.
Additionally, seven new NHAs were designated in the National Heritage Area Act.
According to the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, NHAs around the country are cost-effective, grass roots organizations, which promote economic development through historic preservation and natural resource conservation. The small annual investment of $29 million through the National Park Service yields an additional $5.50 of local, state, and private funding for every federal dollar.
“Over the years, the ORA has supplemented funding from the NPS to restore the Tarbell House in Titusville to be used as event space, design Visitor Centers in the region, build multi-use trails, and produce numerous educational brochures, interpretive panels, and lessons plans,” said Jenn Burden, ORA Heritage Program Manager. “Continued funding from the NPS will ensure the completion of the historic Scheide House in Titusville and Downs Building in Oil City rehabilitation projects as well as additional educational, recreational, and interpretive projects and programs that showcase the unique heritage of the Oil Region.”
This legislation was championed by Congressmen Paul Tonko (D-NY) and David McKinley (R-WV) in the House and Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) in the Senate. Locally, U.S. Representatives Mike Kelly and Glenn Thompson supported the bill.
“The National Heritage Area Act is a testament to the tremendous work National Heritage Areas do within communities across America,” said Sara Capen, leader of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas. “It is a direct reflection of the determination and resilience that is not only the bedrock of National Heritage Areas, but also the history of the places and people National Heritage Areas represent. The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is profoundly grateful for the tireless leadership and support we have received on a bipartisan basis within Congress (December 22) and look forward to serving our communities for an additional 15 years.”