Heritage Tourism Grants Available

BERLIN – A grant funding opportunity is expected to benefit local heritage tourism sites.

Lisa Challenger, executive director for Beach to Bay Heritage Area, says local nonprofits and government agencies have until mid-March to apply for grant funding through a Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) program. Grant awards range from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the project and must be used to support heritage tourism and education.

“It gives folks an opportunity to develop heritage tourism products and projects that attract visitors and allow them to really offer a bigger and better tourism experience,” she said.

The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority is operated out of the Maryland Department of Planning and oversees the recognition and certification of 13 heritage areas throughout the state. Challenger says its grant program offers between $5,000 and $50,000 for non-capital projects, such as interpretation and events, and between $5,000 and $100,000 for capital projects.

“They have a capital grant program, which is really for big projects like bricks-and-mortar building, new exhibits and renovating a historic site …,” she said. “They have to serve a heritage tourism purpose to the public.”

Since its certification in 2004, organizations within the Beach to Bay Heritage Area have received well over $1 million in grant funding to support heritage tourism projects, Challenger said. Just last year, for example, the nonprofit received nearly $167,000 in funding for several projects, including structural renovations and repairs to the Black-Eyed Susan riverboat in Snow Hill and building repairs to the Sturgis One Room School House in Pocomoke.

“The funds are available to nonprofits and municipalities to do a variety of projects,” she added.

This year, however, Challenger said more nonprofits and municipalities could have the opportunity to apply for grant funding, as matching requirements can now be any combination of cash or in-kind contributions.

“If the organization doesn’t have the cash, their match can be completely in-kind …,” she explained. “It’s really made it super helpful and easier for smaller organizations to comply.”

Applicants must submit a Letter of Intent form through the MHAA’s financial incentives website by Jan. 28, and all eligible projects must take place within the boundaries of one of the certified heritage areas. The local application deadline is March 18, and awards will be announced in July.

“It’s a super easy process,” Challenger said.

For more information on the MHAA grant, contact Lisa Challenger at 443-783-3035 or [email protected]. Copies of the grant guidelines and the link to start an application are available at mht.maryland.gov/grants.shtml.

“We encourage folks to apply and call or email with questions,” Challenger said. “It’s a fairly straightforward process. And now that they’ve relaxed the match requirements, I think it opens the door for a lot of organizations that didn’t apply in the past.”

The Beach to Bay Heritage Area is a grassroots, nonprofit organization whose purpose is to preserve, protect and promote the cultural, natural and historical heritage of Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties. Annually, the program provides $230 million in economic impact and generates $29.6 million in state and local taxes while supporting 3,145 full- and part-time jobs.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.