An association of maritime history enthusiasts and heritage organizations has called on historical societies and museums in Washington State to endorse the creation of a new national maritime heritage area. The executive committee of the Pacific Northwest Maritime Heritage Council emailed members and supporters last month asking them to submit a draft letter to non-profit boards endorsing the council’s call on Congress to create the area. The council also asked organizations to endorse a proposal in Congress to formalize the process for creating heritage areas.
The email, signed by the PNMHC executive committee, said endorsements “will show observers both in Washington State and in Washington DC the high the level of support that exists here for the proposal for a National Heritage Area focused on Washington State’s maritime history,” the email said.
National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress to highlight the historical importance of specific geographic locations in the U.S. The areas are administered by the National Park Service; most are located east of the Mississippi River. Creation of new areas has stalled in Congress due to budget constraints and confusion over the legal scope of the areas. A similar proposal to create a heritage area near the mouth of the Columbia River died after local property owners argued the law might infringe on their property rights.
A proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 445, National Heritage Area Act of 2013, would formally define heritage areas and set out a formal process for creating one. The PNMHC said it will base its decision whether to move forward with its lobbying efforts according to feedback from heritage groups.