Hughesville, MD – Lucille W. Walker, Executive Director, was the recipient of the 2022 Visionary Impact Award during the 41st Annual Maryland Tourism & Travel Summit in Ocean City, Maryland, on November 16, 2022. This prestigious award recognizes exceptional vision within the tourism industry in the State of Maryland. Ms. Walker has awarded it for her vision of Southern Maryland becoming a National Heritage Area. 

“I am honored by this recognition from the Maryland Tourism Council,” said Lucille Walker, “and it honors all working so hard towards Southern Maryland becoming the newest National Heritage Area in the United States. The story of this region informs our nation’s story in vital ways, and this award is a wonderful tribute.”

As Executive Director of the Southern Maryland Heritage Area, she has tripled the organization’s funding. As Chair of the Maryland Heritage Areas Coalition and Legislative Lead,  she assisted in doubling the state funding for the Maryland Heritage Area program from $3 million to $6 million.

Walker presented the National Heritage Area idea throughout the region and the state, speaking on the power of place in heritage tourism and why Southern Maryland informs the nation’s story. She was able to bring together diverse groups and organizations, form significant regional partnerships, and secure funding for mandatory national requirements, such as a National Heritage Area Feasibility Study.  Working with the federal, state, and local legislators, Walker, assisted the bi-partisan initiative in moving toward authorizing legislation. 

Becoming a national heritage area requires an Act of Congress and The Southern Maryland National Heritage Area Act (H.R. 2024), sponsored by Congressman Steny Hoyer, passed through the United States House of Representatives in September. The Southern Maryland National Heritage Area Act (S. 825), sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin with support from Senator Van Hollen, is currently pending a vote in the United States Senate.

Becoming a national heritage area will raise the national profile and boost the region’s tourism potential.  Southern Maryland is where religious freedom was put into law for the first time in the Western World, establishing a basic international human right. 

It is where the first person of African descent ever served in a legislature in America, Mathias de Sousa, 1642, and the first woman ever petitioned for the right to vote, Margaret Brent, 1649.  Southern Maryland includes the National Marine Sanctuary of Mallows Bay, several national trails where the first Astronauts trained, and includes rich agricultural and maritime histories and heritage.

Southern Maryland continues to be a region of remarkable innovation with strong ties to the nation’s defense.  Two pillars of the national heritage area initiative are the First People (the Piscataway Conoy Tribe) and African American experiences.

“Ultimately,” Walker said, “we are talking about survival and the human spirit, which is a story worth telling.”

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