December 18, 2020

Alexandra Gradwohl
Maritime Washington National Heritage Area

Launching Soon: The Maritime Washington National Heritage Area

Starting in January, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation will work with coastal communities throughout the state to chart a course for the new Maritime Washington National Heritage Area. Officially designated by Congress in 2019 as a nationally significant cultural landscape, the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area encompasses 3,000 miles of Washington State’s saltwater coastline—from Grays Harbor County to the Canadian border—and includes 18 federally recognized tribes, 13 counties, 32 incorporated cities, and 30 port districts, as well as innumerable harbors, inlets, peninsulas, island shores, and parks.

National Heritage Areas (NHAs) combine natural, cultural, and historic places to tell a cohesive, nationally important story. NHAs are unique in that they are supported by the National Park Service but are locally managed, are entirely non-regulatory, and involve no change in land ownership. Instead, NHAs are built on public-private partnerships and collaboration to support communities in sharing their unique stories and maintaining resources that matter to them. By working 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 on the local level. Existing NHAs across the country have organized national tourism marketing campaigns, created regionwide visitor tours and experiences, run grant programs, provided workshops and trainings for local organizations, spearheaded preservation projects, implemented statewide curricula, and much more.

In short, NHAs build partnerships and share stories that are important to America’s identity, past and present. The Maritime Washington NHA is the first and, to date, only NHA in the country focused entirely on maritime heritage. It celebrates the water-based stories and cultures of our state’s saltwater shores—boosting tourism, strengthening maritime organizations, and finding new ways to collaborate and share resources. The Maritime Washington NHA is facilitated by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, a statewide nonprofit organization.

Over the next year, the Washington Trust will collaborate with communities throughout the NHA to turn vision into an operational plan for the heritage area. This planning process will be built from the ground up, with local residents and maritime partners shaping the future of the Maritime Washington NHA. Throughout the first half of 2021, there will be many opportunities for members of the public to share their views and ideas through virtual workshops, surveys, social media, focus groups, and more. These collaborative efforts will culminate in a management plan which will serve as a roadmap for the heritage area, outlining the NHA’s mission, partnership structure, programs, interpretive strategies, potential grantmaking roles, and more. After robust public collaboration, the Washington Trust aims to present a draft of this plan for public review by late fall 2021.

For more information on the Maritime Washington NHA and to sign up for email updates about opportunities to get involved, visit We also invite you to join us for the first public virtual information session about the heritage area on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at 4:00 pm. Sign up for this free virtual session at

About the Washington Trust: The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is a statewide, tax exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to safeguard Washington's historic places through advocacy, education, collaboration, and stewardship. For more information on the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area, please contact Alexandra Gradwohl at or 206-735-3932.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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