Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Steny Hoyer, with Senator Chris Van Hollen as an original co-sponsor, have introduced federal legislation that would designate the existing Southern Maryland State Heritage Area known as Destination Southern Maryland as a National Heritage Area.

If passed, the Southern Maryland State Heritage Area, which currently includes Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties, would join Baltimore City’s Baltimore National Heritage Area and the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area in Garrett and Allegany counties as the third National Heritage Area in the state.


Southern Maryland has significant national and international importance. It is here, for the first time in the Western world, that religious freedom was codified into law, which provided the foundation for religious freedom in the Constitution of the United States of America. Moreover, the Southern Maryland region is also home of several important sites associated with First Peoples, women’s suffrage, slavery and self-emancipation, and, more recently, the Mercury Space Missions.

In the documents being used to make the case for such a distinction, those advocating for National Heritage Area status for Destination Southern Maryland highlight the increase in national and international awareness of the region as well as new eligibility to funding and other resources:

“A Southern Maryland National Heritage Area will boost awareness and federal support of a part of the state whose resources need to be better protected, whose story needs to be comprehensively told, and whose beauty needs to be more widely appreciated,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “This new legislation will help direct federal seed money to spark the growth of programs and partnerships designed to boost a wide range of tourism and historic and cultural preservation initiatives.”

“I’m proud to introduce this important legislation to designate Southern Maryland as a National Heritage Area and ensure our treasured natural and historic resources are preserved for generations to come,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Our legislation will provide federal funding to support conservation efforts in our region, which in turn will grow our local economy. I thank the Members of the Maryland Delegation for their support of this legislation.”

The next steps in the process, which have already included in-person and virtual community meetings, include passage of the legislation and completion of a feasibility study.


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. 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 mission of BNHA specifically is to promote, preserve, and enhance Baltimore’s historic and cultural legacy and natural resources for current and future generations. BNHA works to accomplish its mission through a variety of products and programs, including hosting guided walking tours, developing new heritage tourism products, and providing grants that encourage tourism and historic preservation.



The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area celebrates the central Appalachian forest – its history, culture, natural resources, and forest heritage. The agency focuses on cultural heritage, conservation, and tourism to support rural community development in Western Maryland, including Garrett and Allegany Counties, and the highlands of West Virginia. The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA) was designated as a National Heritage Area in March 2019 recognizing the national significance of our forest heritage. The AFNHA attracts visitors to discover the rich forest heritage of the highlands of West Virginia and western Maryland. Visitors explore thematic trails leading them to recreation, learning, entertainment, and appreciation experiences targeted to their own interests.