Cantwell, Murray, Kilmer and Heck Propose Maritime Heritage Legislation to Promote WA Tourism

Bills would create first National Heritage Area in the Pacific Northwest; help preserve WA state maritime history

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Denny Heck (D-WA-10) announced they have introduced bills that would establish a National Maritime Heritage Area in Washington state to help preserve and promote the state’s maritime history and culture for future generations to enjoy.

The “Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act” would cover most of Western Washington’s saltwater shoreline and help promote maritime-related tourism, economic development and maritime history as told through Washington state’s museums, historic ships, fishing culture and other activities. 

This would be the first National Heritage Area established in the Pacific Northwest. Congress has designated 49 National Heritage Areas nationwide to promote local economic growth and tourism, and preserve sites and landmarks with cultural and historical significance.

“This historic designation would support Washington state's tourism economy and honor Northwest maritime history,” Cantwell said. “I am proud to work with Senator Murray and Reps. Kilmer and Heck to create the Maritime Heritage Area, which will tie together many important places in Washington state’s history that share a connection to the water. This will help put Washington's maritime history on the map for tourists around the world to come visit."

“This heritage area will honor our state’s rich maritime history, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation,” Murray said.  “This bill will promote cooperation and economic development among communities along Washington’s coastline, so that all can appreciate the unique resources and quality of life we enjoy in Washington.”

“From fishermen to shipbuilders, the maritime economy has been central to our region for generations,” Kilmer said. “By creating a Maritime Heritage Area and preserving national treasures along our coast we can remind future generations of our rich history while attracting visitors from across the nation to our state. It’s an honor to work with Senators Cantwell and Murray, Representative Heck, and the local community to shine a spotlight on our shared traditions.”

“Not only will the establishment of a maritime heritage area encourage people to learn about this special place, but to also visit and experience its brilliance in person,” Heck said. “This designation will also preserve the area for many generations to enjoy our region well into the future.”

Heritage Area designations are eligible for federal grants, and can help draw contributions from state, local and private sources. Heritage Area designations also help coordinate marketing and tourism promotion, such as developing websites, putting up highway signs to advertise sites, sponsoring festivals, and publishing brochures and tour maps. Heritage Areas also can help with assisting in the operation of museums and visitor centers.

A recent economic impact study indicates National Heritage Areas contribute $12.9 billion annually to the national economy and support 148,000 jobs, according to the Park Service.

The legislation, introduced by Cantwell and Murray in the Senate, and by Kilmer and Heck in a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, would create a heritage area that consists of lighthouses, historic vessels, parks, and other landmarks located within one-quarter mile of the shoreline in 13 counties, including Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, San Juan, Island, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam, and Grays Harbor counties. It also would include 19 Native American tribes, 32 cities and 30 port districts. 

Local stakeholders pushed for the designation to attract visitors from around the country to learn more about the state’s maritime legacy.

National Heritage Areas are partnerships between the National Park Service, states, and local communities through which the Park Service supports local and state efforts to preserve natural resources and promote tourism. They are operated by local boards that are established by legislation. National Heritage areas are not part of the National Park System, which are lands that are federally-owned and managed. No federal regulations are imposed, and no private land is affected or acquired.

“This is a thematic way to share our state’s incredible maritime history and a way for museums, ports, historical societies, local governments and tribes to market themselves for the purposes of Washington state tourism,” said Allyson Brooks, Washington state’s Historic Preservation Officer. “And it does not impact private property.”