Democratic News

Jun 18 2015

Cantwell, Murray, Heck and Kilmer Reintroduce Maritime Heritage Legislation to Promote Washington State Tourism

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

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.-06) and Denny Heck (D-Wash.-10) announced the reintroduction of 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 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.

“Washington state’s rich maritime history is of great importance not just to local communities, but the entire nation,” said Sen. Murray. “This designation as a National Maritime Heritage Area would raise awareness of our unique maritime connected industries and culture and encourage further economic development in Washington state.”

“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,” said Rep. Heck. “This designation will also preserve our region for many generations to enjoy well into the future.”

“This bill will honor our shared maritime traditions and support our local economy,” said Rep. Kilmer. “By creating a Maritime Heritage Area and protecting national treasures along our coast we can remind future generations of our rich history along the water and attract visitors from across the nation. I’m proud to work with my colleagues in support of the vibrancy of our coastal communities.” 

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, reintroduced by Cantwell and Murray in the Senate, and by Kilmer and Heck in a companion bill in the 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. 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.