National Maritime Heritage Area support to come before King County Council

July 7, 2009 4:33 pm
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News release just received regarding a meeting tomorrow morning. (By the way, the Seattle City Council’s Parks Committee, chaired by West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, takes this up next Tuesday):

Regional waterways proposed for federal designation as National Maritime Heritage Area

Council to consider support for effort to celebrate working waterfronts and maritime history

An effort to have Congress designate the waterways of Lake Union and the shores of Puget Sound and Washington’s Pacific Coast as a National Maritime Heritage Area will come before the Metropolitan King County Council’s Committee of the Whole tomorrow for a briefing. The proposed designation would celebrate Washington’s working waterfronts and maritime history from its lighthouses and locks to its historic vessels and forts.

Wednesday, July 8
9:30 a.m.
Council Chambers
10th floor, King County Courthouse

The briefing on the proposed designation is not expected to begin before 10:15 a.m.

“Our region was built on our waterways,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, Chair of the Committee of the Whole. “Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean have shaped our history, our culture, and our economy in immeasurable ways. That impact should be recognized through this national designation.”

Ferguson introduced a motion this week, which if adopted by the Council, would strongly support the proposal to designate Washington’s coastline and Puget Sound a National Maritime Heritage Area. The proposed boundaries would include Washington’s saltwater coastline from Grays Harbor to the Canadian border, and extend through the Lake Washington Ship Canal to include Lake Union.

If granted, the National Maritime Heritage Area in Washington State would become the first such designation on the west coast, joining 49 other National Heritage Areas throughout the U.S. The federal designation would be an economic development tool, promoting tourism and supporting the region’s working waterfronts. It would also bolster the efforts of heritage organizations to preserve the area’s maritime history and protect this natural resource.

Unlike a National Park, the National Maritime Heritage Area would be managed by a non-profit organization. It would be governed by a steering committee comprised of local maritime stakeholders and with input from tribes, local governments, ports, and other agencies.

National Heritage Areas are not regulatory, and inclusion within a Heritage Area has no regulatory effect on land use or other property rights. Rather, it would provide a mechanism for local stakeholders to coordinate and share resources, develop a regional identity and brand to improve tourism, develop interpretive areas to enhance knowledge of the area, and provide grants for local heritage projects. Some limited federal funds may also be available to support activities in the area in the future.

The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation is now conducting a feasibility study to determine whether there is sufficient local support to maintain a National Heritage Area. If so, the next step would be a review by the National Park Service.

The Committee of the Whole is the only standing committee on which all nine members serve. It considers legislation and policy issues of interest to the entire Council.

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