On March 12, 2019, when the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act was signed into law, Lancaster and York Counties were officially designated as the Susquehanna National Heritage Area—America’s 55th National Heritage Area. The complete legislation, which designated the Susquehanna National Heritage Area and recognized SNHA as the local coordinating entity, is available online here.


SNHA has a twenty-year track record of heritage and community development success. Many residents and visitors are already familiar with the Heritage Area’s work because it has been operating as a State designated Pennsylvania Heritage Area since 2001. So far, it has attracted more than $20 million to advance heritage and conservation efforts and maintains ongoing public and private funding to match the federal support now available through its national designation.


National Heritage Areas, according to the National Park Service, are “large, lived-in landscapes” in which “historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes” which tell “nationally important stories that celebrate our nation’s diverse heritage.” All of the National Heritage Areas have a local coordinating entity which works with partners. SNHA is responsible for serving as the local coordinating entity for the Susquehanna National Heritage Area.


SNHA is in the process of developing its first NHA management plan. The process includes reaching out to sites, organizations, and individuals to develop an approach to connecting and interpreting the stories, history, and resources in York and Lancaster Counties. A team of consultants was hired by SNHA to complete the Susquehanna NHA Management Plan. The team includes Heritage Strategies, LLC, Judy Walden of the Walden Mills Group, Rebecca Murphy of RCM Strategic Consulting, and Lardner/Klein Landscape Architects. Together, with the staff of the SNHA, a Steering Committee, and a Project Advisory Committee, steps are being taken to fulfill the requirements of the federal legislation and develop the Susquehanna NHA Management Plan.


The legislation establishing the Susquehanna National Heritage Area states that “Federal agencies, the State or a political subdivision of the State, Indian Tribes, regional planning organizations, nonprofit organizations and other interested parties” will collaborate with SNHA to carry out a management plan. Furthermore, the legislation requires that “the management plan shall incorporate an integrated and cooperative approach for the protection, enhancement, and interpretation of the natural, cultural, historic, scenic, and recreational resources of the National Heritage Area,” and the management plan must “consider interests of diverse units of government, businesses, organizations, and individuals” in both its preparation and its implementation.


Ongoing public engagement is critical to the planning process because it helps enlist partners, builds or reestablishes communication networks, and helps reach diverse audiences to make sure that local knowledge is incorporated into the plan. SNHA is also very interested in gathering ideas and support for future national heritage area initiatives and projects. To that end, public meetings were held to review the draft strategies and other elements of the management plan. Specifically, Management Plan Listening Sessions were held on November 9 and 15, 2021. The slide presentation which was shared at the meetings and links to the recording from both meetings are included below. Plans are underway to provide additional opportunities to engage partners, stakeholders, constituencies, and individuals. If you or someone you know is interested in participating, please follow SNHA on social media, subscribe to SNHA’s newsletter, and check SNHA’s website for future updates and meeting notifications.