The Metropolitan King County Council has voted unanimously to recognize the historic, recreational and economic value of the region’s waterways by designating certain county shorelines as “County Maritime Heritage Area.” The ordinance is intended to encourage the State Legislature to designate saltwater shorelines statewide as a maritime heritage area, and ultimately, to prompt the U.S. Congress to take steps to designate a National Maritime Heritage Area in our region.
“We have worked to build vibrant communities and a growing economy on Puget Sound for decades,” said King Countyt Council Chair Larry Phillips. “We are defined by our waters and shorelines and our interaction with them over time, and that story should be highlighted and celebrated.”
Over the last decade, there has been a local effort to recognize the historic legacy of the region’s saltwater shorelines along with increasing tourist awareness of the region’s maritime history. A Maritime Heritage Summit recommended the establishment of the National Heritage Area for these locations with the goal of:
• honoring the area’s cultural resources;
• increasing public awareness of the resources;
• promoting tourism and economic development;
• coordinating with other designated county maritime heritage areas;
• encouraging designation of the state’s saltwater shoreline as a national maritime heritage area.
National Heritage Areas (NHA) are places recognized by Congress as having nationally important heritage resources. NHAs are locally initiated; the National Parks Service coordinates with local interests in the development of designation proposals. There are currently 49 designated National Heritage Areas throughout the country, though none in Washington.
National Heritage Areas are operated by local groups through public-private partnerships with the National Parks Service. The Parks Service provides technical and financial assistance, while the local partners retain all decision-making authority.
The county designation includes:
• federal, state and tribal lands within the county that allow public access, at least a part of which are located within a quarter-mile landward of the saltwater shoreline;
• Lake Washington Ship Canal and Lake Union shoreline.
At any level, these designations do not carry regulatory, procedural or property management constraints. The designation is intended solely to support heritage and tourism potential.
Ed. note: On October 3, the City of Burien will be hosting the reopening of Seahurst/Ed Munro Park, and the restoration of Seahurst Beach. Here’s a chance to celebrate one of the areas now included as part of the County Maritime Heritage Area. More information at sococulture.org/calendar/2014-10/