The Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area Act is on the way to becoming law. If passed, it will provide a major boost to historic sites and outdoor recreation throughout Alabama’s Black Belt region and a major boon to tourism.
It has passed the House of Representatives and is now awaiting a vote in the Senate. The bill was introduced in the House by Congresswoman Terri Sewell and is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Richard Shelby and supported by Senator Tommy Tuberville.
dr Tina Naremore Jones, vice president of the Department of Economic Human Development at the University of West Alabama, said establishing a heritage area means the area is significant enough to warrant attention. This means that the area has made such important contributions that it needs to be recognised, and natural and historical sites in the region need to be developed and cared for.
“It offers expertise like the National Park Service and others and gives us the opportunity to compete for funding that we are not currently eligible for. It also recognizes things like ecotourism, historical tourism, the arts and nature-based recreation as important revenue streams for Alabama.”
If signed into law, 19 counties in Alabama’s Black Belt region will be designated National Heritage Areas. These counties are Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox. Culturally significant sites, ranging from natural resources to historical sites, will fall under the bill in these counties.
Jones points to some of the historical events in the Black Belt that resonated across the nation, including the civil rights movement, advances in agriculture, and Native American history.
Jones said this is good for Alabama and the country because the history of the Black Belt is the history of the state and the nation. And as the sites are improved and developed, it will be a major tourist attraction, she adds.