CHARLESTON, Ill. — More than 40 counties in Illinois have now been federally designated as a heritage area of Abraham Lincoln.

New signage for Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area was recognized at a ceremony Saturday at the Lincoln Cabin Historical Site in Coles County. There are also six gateway communities in the 42-county heritage area, including Charleston.

“Counties included in the heritage area have to have a strong Lincoln story,” said Sarah Watson, executive director of Looking for Lincoln, which will manage the heritage area to promote tourism and help people learn about Lincoln’s history in Illinois.

The heritage area is where “most of the activity in Lincoln’s life took place,” added Historic Site Manager Matthew Mittelstaedt.

Watson said gateway signs will compliment larger signs on interstate highways that advise motorists that they are entering the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. The highway signs, designed by the Illinois Department of Transportation, have a brown background with white lettering and a National Park Service logo.

“Working with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the federal government, we were able to get 12 ‘entering the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area signs’ posted on interstates on the perimeter of the Heritage Area,” Watson said.