TUPELO – President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that federally designates a 30-county area in North Mississippi as a national heritage area, which brings with it federal funds.
The Ominibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 is a massive land bill that, among other things, designated 2 million acres across nine states as wilderness and created thousands of miles of new scenic, historic and recreational trails.
The bill, which Obama signed this week, also created 10 national heritage areas, including the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area in Alabama.
“Gaining national heritage area designation for the Mississippi Hills will boost our state’s economy by increasing tourism opportunities,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
The bill also authorizes the heritage area to receive up to $1 million annually for 10 years. But, the actual amount depends on the status of the heritage area and the money available.
The Mississippi Hills area is bordered by the Tennessee and Alabama state lines to the north and east, Highway 14 to the south and Interstate 55 to the west.
The National Park Service defines a national heritage area as a region designated by the U.S. Congress where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography.
The park service on its Web site says designation comes with “limited financial and technical assistance” from the NPS.
The Tupelo-based Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance will manage the Hills heritage area. MHHAA and Wicker will have a press conference April 14 to officially announce the federal designation.
“There are unique stories of cultural and historical significance all across Northeast Mississippi. I am glad this cultural history is being recognized by Congress so that this area of Mississippi can be promoted and shared with a larger audience.”
In November 2007, MHHAA project coordinator Kent Bain and project manager Bobby King unveiled the organization’s three-year strategic plan and a new Web site, www.mississippihills.org.
If the plan is implemented, MHHAA said it will add 10,000 new jobs and make tourism in North Mississippi grow to a $1 billion industry.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carlie Kollath/Daily Journal