Why it Matters
There Are Stories Here
Canoe cultures. The age of European exploration. Gray, Thompson, the Pacific Fur Company, Hudson’s Bay Company. Trade with Asia, shipped east on James J. Hill’s railroad. Oyster boats, fishing fleets, the mosquito fleet. Whaling ships from Grays Harbor to Westport. Canneries up and down the coasts. Steamers to the Klondike. Freighters, tankers, container ships. Bremerton, Everett and Bangor. Lighthouses and shipwrecks. Dozens of tribal groups and affiliations. The Alaska fleet, sheltered and repaired in protected Puget Sound waters. Salmon and more salmon, caught and dried and canned. Then, fewer and fewer salmon, stewarded and defended and celebrated. And always fishing, shipping, trading, and lives shaped by water. Washington’s Pacific and inland coast is a place where maritime dramas large and small helped to shape a nation.
They are stories of land and water, sound, strait and ocean, bays and beaches. They are stories of fish and oysters, clams and shorebirds. They are stories of longshoremen and welders, explorers and fishing crews, captains and deckhands. They are also stories of the people who have made this place their home, or who have sought it out for exploration, commerce, or recreation. It is the rich mix of these stories through time and place that would make a National Heritage Area for Washington’s saltwater shore so compelling.
There Are Different Audiences for These Stories
First, the generations of new visitors who will come to this place to explore and learn. Second, the generations of residents for whom the heritage area will become part of their own story, and enrich the way that they think of themselves and the place they have chosen to live. While there may be questions of boundaries and emphasis for a National Heritage Area, there should be no questions about the quality and significance of Washington’s maritime heritage resources.
The challenge is to demonstrate widespread support from the public and elected officials, and the willingness of the region to work together to support a National Heritage Area. The National Heritage Area feasibility study will also tell a story–a story about the continuation of our maritime past and present into the future.
It needs to combine the excitement and significance of the region’s landscape and cultures with the compelling details of community, political, and financial support. It needs to paint a picture of a region eager to represent the system of National Heritage Areas, eager to host new visitors.
Working Together as a Region
We should be able to be better stewards of our maritime heritage, to increase private, federal, and grant funding opportunities, to bring more visitors to experience our heritage, and to make a stronger contribution to our communities. That is the story that the feasibility study for the National Heritage Area needs to tell, and to be effective, it needs to be a story that is shared throughout the region, told by many different voices. This is the story of our shared place, how we came to be, who we are now, and who we will be, living on saltwater shores.