The Schooner Adventuress

Preserving Maritime Heritage

We are connected by water. Washington State’s coastal areas, from the Pacific Ocean to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Puget Sound, have been defined by their relationship to saltwater – a shared maritime heritage. From Native American canoe cultures to the age of exploration to the continued growth and development of maritime industry, maritime heritage and culture have shaped western Washington and contributed to the story of our development as a nation. Today, maritime heritage supporters are seeking designation of Washington’s saltwater coast as a National Maritime Heritage Area—a designation that would recognize the importance of Washington’s maritime heritage to our nation’s history.


National Heritage Areas are special places recognized by Congress as having nationally important heritage resources. The request to designate an area as a National Heritage Area is locally initiated, and if successful, the Heritage Area is operated locally to benefit local communities and support local heritage organizations. Click to download the Feasibility Study, a document evaluating whether Washington State’s maritime heritage resources might qualify for designation as a National Maritime Heritage Area. When considering designation as a National Heritage Area a Feasibility Study is required to demonstrate the national importance of the heritage resources, and the ability of local organizations and jurisdictions to implement the Heritage Area.

Legislative Action

Federal Efforts
In July 2014, Representatives Derek Kilmer (6th) and Denny Heck (10th) introduced legislation to establish Washington's National Maritime Heritage Area.  Representatives Adam Smith (9th), Rick Larsen (2nd) and Suzan DelBene (1st) signed on as co-sponsors.  

That same month, Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray introduced a companion bill in the Senate.  While both bills ultimately failed to pass, the effort worked to raise awareness of the issue and to increase the already strong support for the Maritime Heritage Area. The Washington Trust looks forward to working with our Congressional leaders to re-introduce the bill and heartily thanks them for their efforts to date!

State Legislation
In 2014, the Washington State Legislature also considered companion bills to establish Washington’s shoreline as a state maritime heritage area. The bill was designed to promote heritage tourism and support our unique maritime trades and businesses. The bill would have created the maritime heritage area in name only: it was non-regulatory, with no associated funding required, nor any administrative costs.

A State Maritime Heritage Area would:
  • Promote tourism by honoring the area’s significance
  • Increase public awareness of the importance of Washington’s waterways to its history and development
  • Recognize the importance of maritime industry to Washington’s economy: past, present and future
  • Does all of the above without introducing any regulations
We hope to work with advocates to see a state bill re-introduced.

Local Resolution
In addition, several local jurisdictions have been supportive of efforts to establish a Maritime Heritage Area.  In September of 2014, the King County Council adopted an ordinance designating certain shorelines within King County a "County Maritime Heritage Area."  Like the proposed state area, the County designation is non-regulatory, but works to highlight the historic significance of King County's waterways and serve as a boost to heritage tourism in the region.

For a summary page of information about the potential Washington State Maritime Heritage Area, download this two-sided flyer.