The Heritage Area Grant – The “How” and “Why” of the Designations Question

By Carol Benson, Ph.D. (Updated 2/22/17)

I am the Executive Director of the Four Rivers Heritage Area in Maryland, and it is grant-writing season. This year there are a greater number of “Intent to Apply” forms filed for the Maryland Heritage Areas grant opportunity than ever before. This is a very preliminary, non-binding, online submission form that marks the beginning of the application process. Not all of these Intents will be followed by full applications, and not all applications will be funded, as the funds are limited and the demand far overshadows the amount of funds available. In this article I’d like to share some insight on how best to answer one of the application questions that might seem a bit obscure.

This question is about other “designations.” Here’s how it is worded: “Does the project take place in an area that has other local, State or Federal designations? Check or list all that apply. (This is in addition to the Certified Heritage Area).”

What are the designations that are pertinent and why do they matter? They include:
• National historic district, cluster of NR properties or properties on the state inventory of historic places;
Or one of:
• Maryland’s Scenic Byways;
• Maryland’s designated Main Street communities;
• Maryland’s designated Arts & Entertainment districts;
• Maryland’s Priority Funding Areas;
• Maryland’s Sustainable Communities;
• Maryland’s Enterprise Zones;
• Maryland’s Communities of Opportunity
(Note, this is not a comprehensive listing of designations – there are a few more you might uncover!)

If you are applying for Heritage Area funding, your project must be located in one of the state’s 13 certified heritage areas, but how do you know if your project takes place in a location or area that has another designation? There are a few online resources that can help!

For many of these zones, including Heritage Areas, Priority Funding Areas, Main Streets, and many more, there is an interactive, GIS-based map for all of Maryland’s “Incentive Zones,” available on the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) website. Use this link ( and type in the address of your project. It is easy to use, and you can select different layers to check on the different designations listed.

Scenic Byways are not included in this resource; to see where Maryland’s Scenic Byways are located, use this link to explore: In Anne Arundel County, the Byway runs through South County and is named the “Roots & Tides” Byway,

If your project involves a property that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, you are probably already familiar with that listing, but you can use this link to explore more about NR listings in Maryland:

Is your project located in a federal, state or local historic district? In Anne Arundel County there are 5 such districts, and two of them are in the Heritage Area (Downtown Annapolis and Owensville):,_Maryland. The “Colonial Annapolis” historic district as discussed in this article has received three different designations over the years, with slightly different boundaries (see below or download as a PDF: downtown-annap).


Annapolis Historic District Boundaries

So, now for the “Why?” Why is it important that you answer this question accurately? The reason is that, especially for state designations, each represents a significant investment of state funds and the state “manpower” and resources to administer these programs. Officials want to match up these strategic heritage-related, sustainability-focused, and/or economic development investments to leverage more funds as the various programs bolster and magnify one another. They also want you, the applicant organization, to understand the designations that relate to your project, and to become aware of how these programs work together for your location or region. So best of luck with your current and future applications, and please don’t hesitate to call our office with any questions!


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