Stefanik, Tonko push to expand Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area

A waterfalls in Victory is pictured.

A waterfalls in Victory is pictured.

The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area doesn’t extend north of a small Rensselaer County riverbend.

And there’s a bipartisan effort afoot to change that.

U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, and Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, recently introduced legislation to merge 1,081,600 acres of land into the national heritage area in hopes of spurring cultural and economic investments, according to a press release.

“I would just say that oh my God, I’ve worked with both of them, I get along with both of them, but when you have Paul Tonko and Elise Stefanik on the same page, I think you have an incredible chance of making that happen,” said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

Saratoga County — located within Tonko’s 20th Congressional District — and Washington County — located with Stefanik’s 21st District — would become part of the NHA under the legislation, a move that could further coordinate the region to federal resources for marketing, area growth initiatives and preservation.

Both counties are partially included within the 524-mile Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and fully contained in the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership.

“A lot of these heritage sites, in particular, have incredibly small marketing budgets so anything they can get in addition to what they already have is helpful,” said Shimkus.

The NHA system, providing more than $192 billion in economic output each year, started under President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and has since expanded to include 62 sites across the country.

The Hudson River Valley NHA was approved by Congress in 1996 to cover 11 counties, including Albany and Rensselaer. It spans roughly four million acres.

“Upstate New York and the North Country are home to a rich history, and I am proud to continue to preserve and promote it through this legislation,” Stefanik said. “The cultural, environmental, and economic impact that these National Heritage Areas have on communities in upstate New York cannot be overstated, and I am proud to work to expand this opportunity to all of Washington and Saratoga counties.”

Stefanik in 2020 co-sponsored a bill introduced by Tonko and U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va, to reauthorize the National Park Service program for 15 more years. It was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December.

“I’ve long pushed to strengthen and preserve our heritage areas, and I was thrilled to make a major breakthrough in that push with the passage of my National Heritage Area Act into law [last] year to secure the success and longevity of these cherished sites,” Tonko said in a statement.

Political opposites Tonko and Stefanik have both backed a number of bills, including efforts to reinforce federal limousine safety standards, broadband expansion and early version of the CHIPS for America Act..

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil


Categories: News, Schenectady County

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