ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Tourism Coalition presented Visit Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau President Dan Spedden with its Tourism Advocate award during the annual Tourism Day in Annapolis.
Spedden was nominated by his tourism colleagues after leading a 2017 legislative initiative that brought awareness to the heritage tourism industry and increased its funding, which will allow for a greater economic impact throughout the state.
As a result, legislation passed in the 2017 session of the Maryland General Assembly that provides for the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority to be funded annually at up to $6 million, twice the amount previously capped by statute. When the authority is fully funded, $5.4 million will be invested directly in grant projects designed to enhance heritage tourism in the state.
In the summer of 2016, Spedden appeared before the coalition of Maryland Heritage Area Directors asking for support to lift the cap. After lobbying of his fellow heritage area partners, he garnered the support to pursue this initiative. He then approached the Washington County Community Lobbying Coalition for added support and recruited Brett Wilson, who was a state delegate at the time.
Bills in the House and Senate passed without one dissenting vote and were signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan on May 25, ending a 21-year stagnation of funding for the Maryland Heritage Areas.