Lincoln Heritage Area expansion measure passes
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation on Feb. 19 that was introduced by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, both Illinois Democrats, to honor the legacy of the 16th president of the United States – Abraham Lincoln.
The legislation would expand the Lincoln National Heritage Area in Illinois to include Livingston County, the City of Jonesboro in Union County and the city of Freeport in Stephenson County.
Passage of the legislation came a week after the observance of Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12.
The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area Amendment Act, which passed the Senate as part of the Natural Resources Management Act, will increase economic opportunities for Illinoisans working to preserve the historic site and create new recreation, tourism and educational projects.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill, has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., is one of the measure’s sponsors in the House.
“President Lincoln is a true American hero who expanded liberty and freedom for many and worked tirelessly to steer our country through some of our most challenging times. Our democracy would not be what it is today without his leadership,” Sen. Duckworth said.
“I’m proud the Senate passed our bill to honor his legacy and bring new opportunities for economic growth to local communities across Central Illinois.”
“Expanding the Lincoln National Heritage Area will give future generations of Illinois residents and visitors the chance to learn about President Lincoln’s lasting legacy in our great state,” Sen. Durbin said.
“This bill will also support Illinois communities and help grow the local economy by increasing access to federal grants for preservation and education. I was proud to work with Senator Duckworth to pass this bill in the Senate.”
“I am grateful to Senators Duckworth and Durbin for their efforts to pass this legislation and look forward to working with them and the entire Illinois Congressional delegation to get this bill through the House of Representatives and signed into law,” said Looking for Lincoln executive director Sarah Watson.
“By expanding the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area to 43 counties in central Illinois and the communities of Freeport and Jonesboro, we continue to increase the economic benefit of Heritage tourism through telling the national significant story of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln’s 30 years in Illinois.”
Looking for Lincoln is the coordinating entity for the 42-county Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, the organization’s website explained.
Looking for Lincoln works in partnership with the Lincoln Home National Historic Site to tell the story of Lincoln’s almost 30 years in Illinois where he worked, traveled and lived.
Lincoln came to Union County in September of 1858 for a U.S. Senate campaign with Stephen A. Douglas.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Lincoln Memorial Picnic Grounds in Jonesboro are located on the site of the debate.
Lincoln stayed in Anna when he came to Union County for the debate. The home where he stayed still stands along South Main Street.
The legislation unanimously passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year and it would not add a dime to the deficit according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The legislation which passed in the U.S. Senate received support from Abraham Lincoln reenactor George Buss, who is from Freeport. Buss was in Washington, D.C., to recommend that the measure be passed.
Buss was in Union County to portray Lincoln during the recent Civil War Weekend at the Anna Arts Center in Anna. He also came to Union County to portray Lincoln during last fall’s bicentennial celebration in the City of Jonesboro.
The existing Lincoln National Heritage Area was established in 2008 and preserves the rich legacy of President Lincoln.
The region includes 42 counties across Central Illinois, stretching from the Indiana border to the Mississippi River, and is one of the largest heritage areas in the nation.
The site generates approximately $260 million in economic impact, supports more than 3,000 jobs and generates $255 million in tax revenue.
The counties that would be added to the Lincoln National Heritage Area under this legislation are of special significance to President Lincoln’s personal and professional life. These areas are where Lincoln developed his legal career within the Eighth Judicial District.
They are also home to two more sites of the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates: Jonesboro and Freeport.