Finger Lakes region aims for national recognition with new designation

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tom Reed visited Clute Memorial Park in Watkins Glen Monday to announce a bi-partisan bill that will begin efforts to designate the Finger Lakes region as a National Heritage Area. Passing of this bi-partisan legislation will mean the Finger Lakes would undergo a feasibility study to determine if the region meets the necessary standards to become a National Heritage Area.

Gillibrand first announced the effort in Penn Yan in June 2015.

“The announcement that we’re going to hear today is something that is going to be a major game changer,” said Coleen Fabrizi, Board Chair for the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance. “The potential economic impact from being designated as a National Heritage Area is going to make a difference like we have never before seen in the New York State tourism industry.”

“The Finger Lakes is not a well-known region; it should be known all around the world as this perfect place that people can come and enjoy,” said  Gillibrand. “…making this region a National Heritage Area would solve that problem.”

“I am very confident that, with the Senator’s leadership in the Senate, we are going to be able to get (this bill) to the finish line,” said Reed. “We are going to get this area designated for its rightful recognition across the country that we all stand here to celebrate and to support.”

National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as areas where natural, cultural, and historic resources come together to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. There are currently 49 National Heritage Areas across the United States.

In 2015, tourism was a $2.9 billion industry in the Finger Lakes and employed 59,293 people. In other a National Heritage Areas, designation has led to an incremental but substantial increase in tourism. There are 49 designated National Heritage Areas. These areas support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage, tourism, and educational projects.

Founded in 1919, Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance is an association of private-sector attractions, tourism-related businesses, and partnering county tourism offices working together to enhance and promote visitor businesses for the 9,000 square-mile Finger Lakes region of New York State.