Bill to Create A “Maritime Washington: State Heritage Area” Praised in Olympia
Bills that would designate Washington’s saltwater shorelines a State Heritage Area to promote tourism were praised during their first hearings in separate House and Senate committee meetings in Olympia Tuesday.
The bills (HB 2386, SB 6246), which do not create any new regulations or require new state spending, are designed to make it easier for Washington’s various maritime museums, lighthouses, historic ships, tribes and historic districts to tell a unified story about how the waters of Puget Sound and the coast were integral to the development of Washington State.
The Bills also call on congress to take a similar action and recognize a Maritime Washington: National Heritage Area. Non-regulatory National Heritage Areas are promoted throughout the National Park System to drive tourism. There are 49 National Heritage Areas, but none on the West Coasts, and none that focuses on Maritime history. The importance of Washington’s maritime history as a nationally significant story has been acknowledged by the National Park Service, but the legislation that would allow that designation is stalled in congress.
Tuesday representatives from local governments, historic organizations such as Greys Harbor Seaport, Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, tourism groups and the National Historic Trust praised the legislation and thanked lawmakers for supporting it. Businesses such as Holland American Lines and Pope and Talbot Timber Company also went on the record in support of the legislation at the hearings. A representative of Pope & Talbot testified at both hearings, telling lawmakers that his company has projects inside the area covered by the Historic Designation, but supports the legislation as the company understands the need to promote the state’s heritage and that these bills do not add new regulations or state spending.
Even the Washington Farm Bureau, whose parent organization has opposed Heritage Areas nationally over concern about regulations, made a point of telling the Senate committee that it was “strongly neutral” on this proposal.
“This designation will raise the profile of Washington’s maritime heritage, which is still being written every day on our waterfronts,” said Les Bolton, Executive Director of the Greys Harbor Historic Seaport in Aberdeen in his testimony. “It will help our young people know where we’ve come from and that great jobs are still available to them in the maritime industries.”
The next step for the parallel bills will be decisions by the House Environment Committee and the Senate Parks and Natural Resources Committees on whether to send the measures on so votes in the full House and Senate can be scheduled.
More information on the Bills can be found on the Washington Legislature’s website at: