New York-Vermont partnership that funds historic sites up for renewal

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VERGENNES, Vt. – Since 2006, the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership between Vermont and New York has helped pay for projects that highlight the history and culture of the Champlain Valley, and with the program set to expire soon, senators from both states are making a push for its renewal.

The bill would authorize the partnership for another 15 years, and nearly triple the annual funding doled out to museums, parks and other historic hotspots throughout the Champlain Valley.

Key partners include the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, the Lake Champlain Visitors Center, and Vermont and New York’s historic preservation offices.

“It allows us to create exhibits, reach out to new audiences, and bring people to our museum here in rural Vermont while also reaching out to wider audiences through digital presence across the nation,” said Susan Evans McClure, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

Three interpretive themes guide the projects created through CVNHP funding: Making of Nations, Corridor of Commerce and Conservation and Community. Each recognizes the role that the Champlain Valley played in the early days of the nation.

“The Champlain Valley is the defining feature of our shared landscape, and for centuries it has anchored and sustained communities throughout the region,” said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy. “Honoring our rich and complex relationship with this immeasurable natural resource expands its cultural and economic value even further.  I am proud of the outstanding work the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership has done throughout its 15 years of federal recognition.”

McClure said the annual funding, which is roughly $300,000 per year, fills a critical need for places that don’t have a lot of other grant opportunities available.

“I really think that Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and a lot of other humanities organizations in the region could not do our work without the support,” McClure said. “There’s so few organizations that support the work we do that really gets at understanding our shared humanity and really learning to grapple with the complexity and helping people understand where they came from and where they’re headed.”

One of the more visible aspects of the partnership is the roughly 300 display panels spread throughout the region that highlight the history of a particular town or landmark. Many of them are in poor shape and could use a renovation. Eric Howe, Director of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, said if the program is renewed, older projects could get an upgrade and newer ideas could begin to take shape.

“One of my goals is to use the heritage area to help people make a connection using the history of the region to current day problems we’re having with Lake Champlain and help them understand the importance of the lake and our work to protect it more,” Howe said.

Next month, there are several events made possible by the partnership that will celebrate the 101st anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in America. The events will highlight women across the Champlain Valley that were important to the movement. Celebrations had been planned for last year, but had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

“From the region’s earliest Indigenous inhabitants to today, Vermonters have long had a strong connection to the land and the state’s other natural resources.  For the past 15 years, the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership has worked to celebrate and preserve the natural, cultural, and historical resources that make the Champlain Valley such an important part of our community and our shared natural heritage.  I look forward to seeing the good work the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership will do over the next 15 years as they help local communities tell their stories and preserve critical resources for generations to come.”

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