Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
SECTION 1. There shall be a Freedom’s Way Heritage Area, hereinafter referred to as the area, which shall include the cities and towns of Acton, Arlington, Ashburnham, Ashby, Ayer, Bedford, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Clinton, Concord, Dunstable, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hudson, Lancaster, Leominster, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Lunenburg, Malden, Maynard, Medford, Pepperell, Princeton, Shirley, Sterling, Stow, Sudbury, Townsend, Westford, Westminster, Winchendon and Woburn, to recognize the significant historic, cultural, and natural resources of the Freedom’s Way Heritage Area and to preserve and interpret them for the education and inspiration of present and future generations. Nothing in this act shall limit the rights of private property owners or the cities and towns or agencies of the commonwealth to develop the lands, buildings and resources of the area in the manner they determine appropriate. It is the purpose of this act to provide a management framework to assist the commonwealth and the units of local government cited herein in the development and implementation of integrated cultural, historical, land and water resource management programs in cooperation with the federal government and the state of New Hampshire in order to retain, enhance and interpret the significant values of the natural and cultural resources of the area in consultation with the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
SECTION 2. There shall be a commission to be known as the Freedom’s Way Heritage Area Commission, hereinafter referred to as the commission, which may coordinate the activities and establish or recommend cooperative agreements with federal, state and local governments and private businesses and organizations, in consultation with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, to: (a) further historic preservation, cultural conservation, natural resource protection, tourism and compatible economic revitalization and development; (b) establish guidelines and prepare or assist in the preparation of programs and to further the above goals through recognition, preservation, promotion, and interpretation; (c) advise and assist with loan and grant applications; (d) provide loans and grants from funds appropriated for that purpose for buildings, landscapes, sites, resources and objects which are included or eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or the State Register of Historic Places or for the purpose of providing educational and cultural programs which encourage appreciation of the resources of the area or which further the themes of rediscovering the native landscape, inventing the New England landscape and shaping the landscape of democracy; and (e) prepare and implement a unified historic preservation and interpretive plan for the area.
SECTION 3. The commission shall consist of 15 persons to be appointed by the governor, each of whom shall serve initial terms of 1, 2, or 3 years followed by terms of 3 years. Of these 15 persons, 4 shall be representatives of local government from the cities and towns within the area; 7 shall represent Freedom’s Way Heritage Association, local historical societies, a chamber of commerce, regional environmental organizations, museums or other interpretive centers, the African American and Nipmuc communities, and local and regional land managers; 2 shall be persons who are residents of the area to represent other interests the governor deems appropriate; and 2 shall be the commissioner of the department of conservation and recreation and the executive director of the Massachusetts Historical Commission or their designees, who shall serve ex officio.
A vacancy in the commission shall be filled in the manner in which the original appointment was made. Any member of the commission appointed for a definite term may serve after the expiration of that term until a successor is appointed and qualified.
Members of the commission shall receive no pay for their service on the commission, but may receive reasonable expenses for travel when engaged in commission business, provided such expenses are not reimbursed by any other source.
The chairperson of the commission shall be elected by the members of the commission for a term of 1 year and may be eligible for reelection to subsequent terms. A simple majority of the members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. The commission shall meet at least quarterly and at the call of the chairperson or a majority of its members.
The commission shall work cooperatively with representatives from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States National Park Service, and the state of New Hampshire.
If a Freedom’s Way Heritage Area is designated within the Department of the Interior by an act of Congress, the governor may, at his discretion, terminate the Commission at such time as a federal management entity is established and appointed.
SECTION 4. The commission may for the purpose of carrying out this act hold hearings, take testimony and receive evidence at times and places, that the commission may deem advisable. The commission may authorize any member or agent of the commission to take action which the commission is authorized to take. The commission may hire an executive director and administrative staff.
The commission may establish and appoint 1 or more technical advisory groups and subcommittees to provide technical advice in financing, historic preservation, natural resource preservation, recreation, tourism and intergovernmental coordination. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the commission may seek, accept and dispose of donations of funds, property or services from individuals, foundations, corporations and other private and public entities for the purpose of carrying out its duties. The commission may use funds to obtain money from any source under any program or law requiring the recipient to make a contribution in order to receive this money. The commission may obtain by purchase, rental, donation or otherwise, facilities and services that may be needed to carry out its duties.
The commission may establish such advisory groups that the commission deems necessary to ensure open communication with, and assistance from, the secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, the state of New Hampshire, the commonwealth, political subdivisions of the commonwealth and interested persons.
The commission may enter into cooperative agreements with the secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, the commonwealth, any political subdivision of the commonwealth, the state of New Hampshire or with any person.
The commission may: (a) coordinate activities of and establish cooperative agreements with federal, state, and local governments and private businesses and organizations in order to further historic preservation, cultural conservation, natural area protection and compatible revitalization; (b) establish guidelines and standards for projects and prepare programs and exhibits that will further the recognition, preservation, promotion, interpretation and economic revitalization of the historic and natural resources in the area; (c) provide advice and assistance in preparation of loan and grant applications to the commission and applications for loans or grants from federal or nonfederal sources in furtherance of the purposes of this act; (d) make loans and grants, from funds appropriated for that purpose from funds donated or otherwise made available to the commission, for the purpose of conserving and protecting sites, buildings, landscapes, resources and objects which are included or eligible for inclusion on the State or National Register of Historic Places or for the purposes of providing educational and cultural programs which encourage appreciation of the resources in the area; and (e) prepare and implement a study report which shall incorporate in whole or in part the plan prepared by the Freedom’s Way Heritage Commission and shall present a unified historic preservation and interpretive plan for the area. The report shall include an analysis of the methods and means of inventorying, preserving and interpreting the historical, cultural and natural resources of the area along with recommendations concerning use of these resources and coordination of activities within the area.
Passed without Governor’s signature, November 10, 2006.