Could Point Hudson be headquarters for Nat’l Heritage Area?

Posted 9/18/19

Cities across the Puget Sound are vying to become the headquarters of a new Maritime National Heritage Area, and Port Townsend is gearing up to join the battle.

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Could Point Hudson be headquarters for Nat’l Heritage Area?

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Cities across the Puget Sound are vying to become the headquarters of a new Maritime National Heritage Area, and Port Townsend is gearing up to join the battle.

The Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act was signed into federal law on March 12 as part of a larger public lands package that includes a number of public lands priorities across the nation.

The bill, which was fostered by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA, seeks to highlight all maritime landmarks within one-quarter mile of the shoreline around the Puget Sound. The area spans 13 counties, including Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, San Juan, Island, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam and Grays Harbor counties. It will include 19 Native American Tribes, 32 cities and 30 port districts, including the Port of Port Townsend.

For the first 10 years, $1 million per year will be appropriated to fund activities that celebrate and encourage the shipping and ship-building history of the zone. Not only that, but establishing a heritage area will qualify communities to apply for certain federal grants, and to draw contributions from state, local and private sources in order to preserve historic maritime areas, including Port Townsend’s working waterfront.

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, a historic preservation nonprofit based out of Seattle, has been tasked with start-up, which includes deciding where the Maritime Heritage Area headquarters will be located, how the funding will be used and more.

“In Port Townsend there’s a local interest and a certain logic to have that program be headquartered here in Port Townsend and potentially developing a land use planning effort around Point Hudson,” said Michael Sullivan, of Artifacts Consulting Inc., a historic preservation company based out of Tacoma.

On March 15, Kilmer held a roundtable discussion at the Northwest Maritime Center to discuss the next steps in preserving maritime heritage in Port Townsend and Jefferson County and how the National Heritage Area Act could help the Port of Port Townsend fund some projects.

Having the headquarters of the Maritime Heritage Area in Port Townsend could aid local efforts to promote maritime trades as a central part of our economy. As it is right now, the marine trades generate $12.6 million in state and federal tax revenue, according to an economic impact study done by the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.

Point Hudson is already included within the downtown historic district of Port Townsend. It holds a history that predates European settlers, as it was once a sand spit where Native Americans from the village of qatay fished and camped. Once European settlers arrived in Port Townsend, the area evolved into a marina that housed the Pacific Northwest’s earliest boat builders, the customs house for the West Coast, as well as a base for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Those details are the foundation for Point Hudson’s bid to be headquarters of the Maritime Heritage Area. But it’s not the only port city in the running.

“When you look at the Anacorteses and the Bellinghams of the world, it’s going to be a fight,” said Jim Pivarnik, interim director at the Port of Port Townsend. “But we feel that we have the best story, given that we are already part of a historic district.”

According to Chris Moore, director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, it is still very early in the process to be making bets on which city will house the headquarters.

“Just in general, we anticipate Point Hudson being one of the featured areas that the Maritime National Heritage Area will help to elevate the activities and programming that is already there,” Moore said. “There are all these great things there already happening. We see that being strengthened with the historical designation.”

The trust is currently working on creating a management planning process for the Maritime Heritage Area, which will include creating a steering committee and involving public ports, state parks, the department of history and archeology, tribal partners and the tourism alliance in planning how the zone’s projects will be organized.

“I envision a series of public meetings and chances for input,” Moore said.

By the end of the year, the trust hopes to have a calendar in place for 2020 planning meetings and public comment opportunities.

POINT HUDSON

While the National Heritage Area designation could bring some new energy to Point Hudson, the Port of Port Townsend is dealing with more pressing issues, like the failing Point Hudson jetty.

Engineering is in the works for the replacement of the timber creosote piles on the south jetty with steel piles, but the effort will cost the port money it may not have.

At a port meeting in July, commissioners expressed concern that the port would not have enough bonding capacity to cover the cost of the $6 million project.

With the Maritime Heritage Area’s concrete plans being so far in the distance, it is unlikely that federal funding will come to the aid of the failing breakwater anytime soon, so the port is looking for any and all partners to help preserve the history and the structure of the marina, said Jim Pivarnik.

This could come in the form of partnering with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

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