National Maritime Heritage Area

Stories of land and water; sound, strait and ocean; bays and beaches

Beginning with coastal canoe cultures and continuing to superferries and superfreighters, Western Washington’s community and commerce has grown on our saltwater shores. The story of our maritime heritage is a key to understanding ourselves as a region. It is also a story of national importance, reflecting a unique way of life in a place like no other.

A variety of groups, from heritage societies to ports to Native American tribes and intertribal organizations, have worked diligently to protect and celebrate our living maritime heritage. However, many of those groups have also struggled to maintain volunteer support, raise funds, and build sustainable organizations. Individual groups believe that telling a bigger story—one that brings together old and new, the Pacific and Puget Sound, large craft and small—will engage more of the public and better share the history, drama and excitement of our maritime stories. Accordingly, Washington’s maritime heritage community has banded together and for the past several years have been working to achieve a new designation for Washington’s maritime resources as a National Heritage Area, stretching along Washington’s saltwater coastline from Grays Harbor County to the Canadian border.

In February 2019, this long fight for designation achieved a stunning victory when the Congress passed the Natural Resources Management Act, the largest public lands bill in over a decade, which included the official designation of the Washington National Maritime Heritage Area. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is named as the local coordinating entity for the program and we are excited to work with our partners to capitalize on the new designation!


Stay in the loop!

As the local coordinating entity, the Washington Trust is looking forward to putting together the management plan for the newly designated Washington State Maritime Heritage Area. Over the next few years, we will be working with a variety of stakeholders to develop that plan to create a vibrant heritage area. Following approval of this plan by the NPS, we will be off and running, highlighting the stories, resources and individuals that make our state’s maritime heritage so compelling. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on Maritime Heritage Area developments, please join our email list!

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Feasibility Study

National Heritage Area designation follows a two-step process: completion of a feasibility study (rather than an application) and introduction of authorizing legislation in the U.S. Congress. Broadly, these evaluation criteria relate to the following questions:

  • Does the landscape has an assemblage of historic, cultural, and natural resources that, when linked together, tell a nationally important story?
  • Do outstanding opportunities exist for improving the quality of the resource assemblage through conservation, recreation, and education?
  • Are there ongoing traditions, customs, and lifeways associated with a nationally important story?
  • Does an organization exist that has the financial and organizational capacity to coordinate heritage area activities?
  • Is there public support for NHA designation and the proposed coordinating entity, and are potential partners interested in working with the proposed coordinating entity on heritage area activities?

This study was the culmination of a four-year grassroots movement, an extensive community outreach process, and a rigorous assessment of Washington State’s unique maritime heritage and its contribution to our shared national story. The nation’s west coast is a place to experience two vital components of the American character: our pioneering spirit and restless innovation. The proposed National Maritime Heritage Area demonstrates these uniquely American qualities through its stories of exploration, intrepid communities, and dynamic industries. The Washington State National Maritime Heritage Area will make a strong contribution to the growing collection of National Heritage Areas throughout the country, offering opportunities for learning unavailable anywhere else.

Full Feasibility Study

Want a shorter peek at the content of the feasibility study? Check out the overview document or the themes and sub-themes exerpt from the full document.