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What is a heritage area?
Heritage areas are regions where historic structures, landscapes, cultural traditions, and other resources (such as parks and museums) work together to tell patterns of history unique to the location.

The Baltimore National Heritage Area (BNHA) is one of 13 certified heritage areas in Maryland and one of 49 Congressionally designated national heritage areas across the country.

How big is the Baltimore National Heritage Area?
The heritage area covers roughly 22 square miles. The core of the heritage area includes the historic neighborhoods around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The heritage area extends west to include the Gwynns Falls and Leakin Park, and reaches north to include Druid Hill Park and the Cylburn Arboretum. The heritage area is not contiguous: Mount Auburn Cemetery is also included with the heritage area boundary. Click here for a map of the heritage area.

What does the heritage area do?
BNHA’s mission is to promote, preserve, and enhance Baltimore’s cultural and historic legacy and natural resources for current and future generations.

The federal establishing legislation states the purpose of the heritage area is to help local agencies and non-profits to:

  • carry out projects and programs that recognize and protect heritage resources;
  • develop recreational and educational opportunities;
  • increase public awareness and appreciation of natural, historic, scenic, and cultural resources;
  • protect and restore historic sites and buildings that reflect the heritage area’s themes; and
  • ensure that signs identify points of interest.

One of BNHA’s most publicly visible projects is its network of urban heritage trails. BNHA staff members regularly attend numerous public meetings and sit on partner organization boards and committees. The BNHA Year in Review publications provide an in-depth look at the work of the heritage area.

Why isn’t my neighborhood included in the heritage area?
The current boundary reflects criteria recommended by the Maryland Heritage Areas and National Heritage Areas program. The original boundary was drawn in 2001, and was expanded in 2007 prior to federal designation.

As the heritage area matures, it is likely that new neighborhoods and portions of the city will be considered for inclusion into the boundary. Any expansion to the boundary would require approval by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and an Act of the U.S. Congress. To be considered for addition into the heritage area, neighborhoods and areas would need a disctinct mix of historic structures, natural spaces, and cultural instutions which together help tell significant stories about Baltimore's history. 

Is a national heritage area like a national park?
While heritage areas have set boundaries, they do not operate like a national park. The National Park Service does not manage or own any land in the heritage area (other than Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine).

The NPS does provide technical and planning assistance and is always advisory in nature. NPS also provides limited financial assistance. NPS is a partner and advisor, leaving decision-making authority in the hands of BHAA, its partners, and the residents of Baltimore.

What are the benefits of heritage area designation?
The designation opens up some state and federal funding to assist in promoting the mission of the heritage area. Most of this support comes through grant programs. Visit our grant information page for detailed information.

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