Here are some frequently asked questions about the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area and other National Heritage Areas.
Don’t see your question listed here? Email Washington Trust Project Manager (and MW-NHA Captain) Alex Gradwohl at email@example.com.
What is a National Heritage Area?
National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. Through their natural and manmade resources, NHAs tell nationally significant stories that celebrate our diverse heritage. These regions are active, vibrant landscapes where people continue to live, work, play, and share their distinctive cultures. NHAs build public-private partnerships to better tell the stories of these places and support communities in maintaining and sharing their unique resources. By collaborating with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs, NHAs can support historic preservation, economic development, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, and educational projects. In short, NHAs help support and share stories from places that are important to America’s identity, past and present.
What is the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area and why does it matter?
In 2019, Congress passed the John Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act—the largest public lands bill in over a decade. That bill established Washington State’s first two National Heritage Areas: the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, managed by the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, and the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area, managed by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Maritime Washington National Heritage Area (MW-NHA) is the first and, to date, only National Heritage Area focused entirely on maritime heritage. The MW-NHA spans 3,000 miles of Washington’s saltwater coastline, from Grays Harbor County through Puget Sound to the Canadian border, and encompasses 18 federally recognized tribes, 13 counties, 32 incorporated cities, and 30 port districts, as well as innumerable harbors, inlets, peninsulas, island shores, and parks. The MW-NHA will build partnerships and increase collaboration to support our coastal communities in celebrating, maintaining, and sharing their water-based stories.
Does the MW-NHA have any regulatory components?
No. Although supported by the National Park Service, NHAs are unique in that they are locally run and completely non-regulatory. There is no change in ownership of land within the NHA, no added rules or regulations, and participation is completely voluntary. Local governments, tribes, organizations, and members of the public can join in as much or as little as they wish.
Who’s in charge of this thing?
Each National Heritage Area is facilitated and implemented by a local group. For the MW-NHA, that’s us, the nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. We’re a statewide preservation advocacy organization–you can learn more about us here—and are thrilled to be embarking on this new and exciting journey for our state’s saltwater shores.
To help guide the planning of the heritage area, and ensure that many voices are represented in the process, we’ve assembled a diverse team of individuals and partners to help chart the course ahead. This includes our Steering Committee, a Tribal Working Group, and additional Working Groups focused on interpretation, implementation, business, and branding. We also have help from a fantastic group of Anchor Organizations from across the region, who are helping us spread the word about the Maritime Washington NHA and the many opportunities to get involved in the visioning process.
Where are you in the planning process?
Throughout 2021, we’re working with local organizations and residents to create a management plan for the heritage area. This document will serve as our roadmap for the MW-NHA: it explains what the heritage area will look like, what it will do, and how it will do it.
To ensure that the heritage area addresses locally identified needs and opportunities, we’ve spent a lot of time listening. Throughout 2020 and into the spring of 2021, we hosted a series of workshops, focus groups, surveys, individual interviews, and other public engagement activities to help determine the direction and priorities of the Maritime Washington NHA. Hundreds of Washingtonians helped determine the future of this new heritage area by sharing their thoughts and ideas about the past, present, and future of our state’s saltwater shorelines. Through this public input, we learned more about what makes our shores and waterways unique, the threats and opportunities facing our shorelines, and how this new heritage area can support communities and Tribes in maintaining and sharing their unique maritime heritage. For a snapshot of what we learned, you can check out this overview.
Now, we’re working with the planning team to turn this input into a plan for the MW-NHA. As we continue to determine what exactly the heritage area will look like, we’ll also be working with other partners and stakeholders to test our ideas and ensure we’re on the right track. In early 2022, we’ll be sharing a draft of the management plan with the public for additional input.
What kinds of things to NHAs do?
National Heritage Areas across the country run lots of different programs and initiatives based on locally identified needs and values. NHAs have:
- Created regional branding
- Run national and international destination marketing campaigns
- Created websites and apps for visitors with centralized information on what to do, where to go, events, travel itineraries, and historical context
- Organized regional buses, bike shares, and other transportation for visitors
- Partnered on projects to rehabilitate historic resources
- Collaborated on statewide K-12 curriculum
- Run field trips, summer camps, and other educational programs
- Operated small grants programs
- Convened regionwide summits and conferences on specific topics and issues of interest
- Offered technical support, consulting services, and trainings to organizations within their NHA
- Published guidebooks
- Collaborated on research projects
- Supported exhibit designs
- Put up wayfinding and interpretive signage
- Organized tours, featuring multiple sites within the NHA
- Hosted or supported existing festivals
- Promoted conservation initiatives
- Organized volunteer opportunities for organizations within their area
- Run oral history and documentation projects
- Coordinated and funded public arts initiatives, such as heritage- and history-related murals by local artists
What about the maritime-related work that’s already being done within the heritage area?
We know there is already a lot of amazing work happening along Washington’s saltwater coastline. From historic tallships to trail systems to oyster farms to visitors centers and much much more, the vibrant activities already going on along our shores are a major reason why the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area was designated in the first place! The goal of the Maritime Washington NHA is not to replace or duplicate the work of the many successful organizations already operating within this area. Instead, we aim to provide a platform to share their stories with a wider audience, provide support where we can, and foster more collaboration between folks working in diverse industries.
Why is Pacific County not included in the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area?
During the feasibility study process to create the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area, there was a simultaneous study to designate a Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Area along the coastal areas of Clatsop and Pacific counties, also known as the North Beach Peninsula. During this process, stakeholders from Pacific County decided to focus their efforts on the Columbia-Pacific NHA. Therefore, Pacific County was not included in the final feasibility study nor in the resulting legislation that created the Maritime Washington NHA. Unfortunately, the recession coupled with strong public opposition from certain private property interests hampered the efforts of the proposed Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Area and the National Park Service has determined that, at least for now, insufficient public support exists for the designation. Although it is not officially a part of the Maritime Washington NHA, we hope and anticipate that the stories, themes, and benefits of the heritage area extend into Pacific County and throughout the entire Pacific Northwest coastal region.