SECTION 1. The general laws are hereby amended in chapter 9 by inserting after section 26C the following section:-
Section 26C ½. The Commonwealth Heritage Area Program
(1) Definitions. As used in this section, the following term shall have the following meaning:-
“Commonwealth Heritage Area” shall mean a large geographical region or corridor of the Commonwealth that preserve, enhance and promote natural, recreational, cultural and scenic resources for heritage conservation, tourism and economic development. Those areas of the Commonwealth encompassed within recognized National Heritage Areas will so be designated as a Commonwealth Heritage Area.
(2) There shall be a Commonwealth Heritage Area Program to recognize the significant national resources such designated areas preserve and enhance, and that those resources are equally important to the heritage of the state.
(3) The program shall administer, in conjunction with, or in addition to, existing Federal grant programs and State programs for grants and loans to local government, municipal authority, and nonprofit organizations for community and regional projects involving the planning, acquisition, rehabilitation and development of public park, recreation and conservation areas, facilities and programs within the designated Commonwealth Heritage Area.
(4) The commission shall develop partnerships with the Commonwealth Heritage Areas to preserve national heritage and encourage compatible economic activities while maximizing scarce resources, including but not limited to environmental protection, heritage resource preservation, recreation, tourism promotion and signage.
(5) The commission shall promulgate regulations, in consultation with the executive office of energy and environmental affairs, the Massachusetts office of travel and tourism, and the Massachusetts cultural council to implement this section.
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