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'Heart of Civil War' is formed

June 26, 2006

Three counties and two dozen cities and towns in central and western Maryland have formed the "Heart of the Civil War."

Heritage area sites in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties were visited by the group during the familiarization tour and review of grantees in the Target Investment Zones.

When certified by the State of Maryland, the new Heritage Area will be the 11th certified heritage area in Maryland. The designation will make local jurisdictions eligible for a variety of grants to boost tourism and historic preservation.

Once the area is fully certified, likley in July, grants will be available to local governments, organizations, businesses and individuals for marketing materials, preservation projects and new construction. Local governments, businesses and nonprofit agencies may apply for matching grants. They may also qualify for tax incentives to rehabilitate nonhistoric buildings with a tourism use.

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Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that initial efforts include marketing the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area in anticipation of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The heritage area is online at www.heartofthecivilwar.org. The management plan for the heritage area is posted on the Web site.

The multistep process to create the heritage area got under way several years ago. The project includes an extensive area and history, and the heritage area has had a complicated approval process. A 211-page planning document has been circulated to all 29 local governments for endorsement, which included public hearings regarding how each jurisdiction would need to amend its comprehensive plan.

Some of the grants that have been applied for through the new heritage area program include projects in Hagerstown, Boonsboro and the Pry House Field Hospital Museum.

A public hearing today in Frederick, Md., will be a final step in the process for the area to become state-certified. The hearing is planned for 7 p.m. at Winchester Hall.

After the public hearing and review of any comments received, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority will approve, approve with conditions or disapprove the HCWHA Management Plan. If approved, participating local jurisdictions and nonprofits, businesses and individuals in participating local jurisdictions are eligible for grants, loans, tax credits or other benefit programs available through the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

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