Local lawmakers push bill to help protect historic landmarks throughout Northeast Florida

Preserving historic landmarks in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum brings in more than 200,000 visitors per year -- visitors like Katrina Perry, who came all the way with her family from East Texas.

“We like to bring the kids and actually see and visit, and kind of get hands-on and eyes-on, so it kind of brings it home and they’ll remember it better,” Perry said.


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Congressman John Rutherford is the co-sponsor of the Nation's Oldest Port National Heritage Area Act.

This bill would make parts of Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties a National Heritage Area.

Those are areas protected by the National Park Service and they’re recognized as important cultural and historic landscapes from South Georgia to the Palm Coast.

“A heritage area helps liberate funding to help tell people those stories. It doesn’t affect property ownership, but it designates the area as culturally sensitive and important,” Rick Cain with the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, said.

If the bill passes, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum would head an alliance set out to protect landmarks like the lighthouse.

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The National Heritage Act would help them pay for things like signage for historical areas -- and pay for painting and overall upkeep at landmarks like the St. Augustine lighthouse since they would receive federal funding.

Perry said these landmarks are important to her family and they would hate to see them go.

“I think we’ve already lost too many things already,” Perry said.

It’s why she and her family traveled thousands of miles, turning their vacations into field trips for learning.

According to a 2012 study by the Alliance of National Heritage Areas and the National Parks Service, NHAs supports about 148,000 jobs and generates nearly $13 billion each year to the national economy. Currently, there are 55 designated National Heritage Areas in 34 states across the U.S.