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About us

Four Rivers Heritage Area

Mission: To advance, support and promote the natural, historic and cultural resources of the region.

Annapolis, London Town & South County Heritage Area, Inc. (ALTSCHA, Inc.), known as the Four Rivers Heritage Area, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is one of Maryland’s 12 certified heritage areas. We create and support products and activities that leverage economic development through preservation and heritage tourism.

Four Rivers, one of Maryland’s state heritage areas, is an established heritage tourism destination on the Chesapeake Bay’s western shore. With Annapolis, Maryland’s historic capital city, as its “crown jewel”, the Four Rivers Heritage Area stretches from Sandy Point State Park at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, through southern Anne Arundel County, to Rose Haven at the Calvert County line. Framed by the Chesapeake Bay on the east and by Route 2/Solomon’s Island Road on the west, Four Rivers reflects Maryland’s rich historic, cultural, and natural legacy.

A 501 c 3 nonprofit organization, Four Rivers is also a partnership among the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, Anne Arundel County, the City of Annapolis, the Town of Highland Beach, and heritage-related organizations and businesses. Our mission is to protect and strengthen the natural, historic, and cultural resources of the heritage area, to nurture their discovery through educational and recreational experiences for visitors and residents, and to promote the region’s rich legacy. As an economic development tool, Four Rivers develops and supports activities and projects that enhance heritage tourism, a growing segment of the lucrative tourism industry.

We are proud to be part of the Maryland Heritage Areas Coalition. Maryland’s Heritage Areas are locally-designated and State-certified regions where public and private partners make commitments to preserving historical, cultural and natural resources for sustainable economic development through heritage tourism.  At the local level, Heritage Areas focus community attention on often under-appreciated aspects of history, living culture, and distinctive natural areas, thus fostering a stronger sense of pride in the places where Marylanders live and work.

Board and Coordinating Council

Diane Nowak-Waring, APR, Chair
Timothy Leahy, Vice-Chair
Barbara Polito, Treasurer
Elizabeth Ramirez, Secretary
Alice Estrada
Gertrude Makell

Lisa Barge
Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation

Linnell Bowen
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts

Robert C. Clark
Historic Annapolis

Rod Cofield
Historic London Town & Gardens

Jane Cox
Anne Arundel County Planning & Zoning

Lisa M. Craig
City of Annapolis

Alma Cropper
Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center

Connie Del Signore
Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau

Lynne Forsman
Annapolis Green

Anson Hines, Ph.D.
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Rick Leader
Scenic Rivers Land Trust

Lyndra Marshall
Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

April Nyman
Arts Council of Anne Arundel County

Lily Openshaw
Chesapeake Blue and Green

Honorable Michael Pantelides
Mayor, City of Annapolis

Constance Ramirez
West Annapolis Heritage Partnership

Jean Russo, Ph.D.
Annapolis History Consortium

Honorable William H. Sanders III
Mayor, Highland Beach

Heather Skipper
Watermark Tours

Emily Oland Squires
Maryland State Archives

Laura Wood
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Meet Our Staff

Carol A. Benson, Ph. D., Executive Director
Carol Benson Photo

Carol is a heritage professional whose past positions have included Classical art historian, museum curator, university lecturer, and non-profit administrator. She has a Ph. D. in Classical Greek Art History from Princeton University. As a Mellon Curatorial Fellow in Ancient Art at the Walters Art Museum, she planned the reconfiguration and reinstallation of the museum’s Ancient Art collection for renovated galleries. She left the curatorial field in 2000 to develop a heritage-area interpretation program for the Maryland Humanities Council and has worked with Maryland’s heritage areas ever since. She began working with the Four Rivers Heritage Area in 2005, and became Executive Director in January 2008. She serves on the Board of Directors of Visit Annapolis and Anne Arundel County and is the current Vice Chair; she is also on the Board of the Maryland Museums Association. She also serves on the Advisory Council of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.

Facts & Programs

Operating and program assistance from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) comes in the form of Management Grants, capped at $100,000 annually. These funds must be fully matched at the local level (75% must be cash, 25% can be in-kind). Each year, ALTSCHA requests support from the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County for these required matching funds.

ALTSCHA is the only entity through which heritage-related nonprofit organizations and municipalities within its borders are eligible for matching Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) grants and low interest business loans. Since certification, ALTSCHA has brought more than $3.3 million in matched program and project grants, including one low interest loan to a heritage tourism business, resulting in total leverage of $10.6 million for heritage organizations and projects.

MHAA is an independent unit within the Executive branch of State government, and is administered by the Maryland Historical Trust, an agency of the Maryland Department of Planning. Funding (up to $3 million each year) comes out of Program Open Space funds.

Entities within the Heritage Area are also eligible to apply for Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grants through ALTSCHA, including both capital and non-capital matching grants for projects and small business loans. Capital projects in the Heritage Area funded through the MHAA grant program include:

  • Renovation of restrooms in Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (FY11)
  • Restoration and rehabilitation of the historic Charles Carroll House (FY10, FY14)
  • Emergency grant for roof replacement at Captain Avery Museum (FY13)
  • Restoration and rehabilitation of the historic gardens (FY06) and repair and painting of damaged exterior wood (FY09) at the Williams Paca House
  • Preservation and renovation of historic McNasby’s Oyster Packing Co. Building at Annapolis Maritime Museum (FY08)
  • Restoration of the Southgate Memorial Fountain in Annapolis (FY08)
  • Expansion of the Visitors Center on West Street (FY06, FY07)

The Heritage Area operates a mini-grant program each year from an annual mini-grant fund of at least $20,000. Mini-grants are awarded up to $2,500 (must be fully matched) to deserving heritage area partner organizations, local governments, and other heritage-related entities. Some projects funded through the mini-grant program include:

  • An updated, expanded walking tour of Eastport (Annapolis Maritime Museum)
  • Development of a historic kayak tour of Spa Creek (AMM with ACT), and of the Rhode River (ACT with SERC)
  • A virtual reconstruction of the Rumney and Long, a historic ship ca. 1747, in 3D for exhibit at Historic London Town (ACT)
  • A cellphone tour for “Annapolis: Centuries of Community” exhibit (Banneker-Douglass Museum)
  • The Passport to Discovery, a children’s activity booklet (Chesapeake Children’s Museum)
  • A one-day Black History Month seminar (HAF, BDM, and Bates Legacy Center)
  • I Dig Galesville Roots,” a multi-generational African-American history and genealogy project (Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation with the Galesville Community Center Organization)
  • The preservation of Francis Scott Key’s Last Will and Testament (St. John’s College)

  • South County Audiotour CD, “Roots & Tides” with accompanying brochure – 2003, reprinted 2011
  • “Landings: A Boater’s Guide” – July 2006
  • “Explorer’s Guide” with folded map – Map, October 2006; Guide, February 2007
  • “Explore, Experience, Discover Four Rivers” brochure – January 2009

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