Photo by Jacob McGinnis

About the National Heritage Area

In March 2019, the Mountains to Sound Greenway was officially designated by Congress as a National Heritage Area (NHA). The Greenway NHA is an ecologically diverse corridor, stretching 100 miles from Ellensburg to Seattle, Washington, where cultural heritage is stitched closely to a dramatic landscape of water, mountains, forests, and farms.

The Greenway NHA’s valleys, waterways, and rugged peaks form a network of travel and trade, migration, and connection, that stretches back millennia. Salmon and first peoples made their way inland on rivers that drained into Puget Sound, while in the snow-fed rivers of the Upper Yakima, water and wind shape the patterns and habits of fish, animals, and agriculture. The landscape of the Greenway NHA defines the region’s history, culture, and heritage.

This designation provides a tool through which the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and its many local partners can preserve the natural landscapes and ecosystems that define the region’s character, while recognizing the cultural and historic significance of these lands and its people—past, present, and future. This includes recognizing and supporting tribal rights and the important role of tribal presence throughout the landscape.

What is a National Heritage Area? 

NHAs are places designated by Congress where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. NHAs promote an integrated and cooperative approach for protecting, enhancing, and interpreting the natural, cultural, historic, scenic, and recreational resources of the NHA while upholding tribal rights and protecting private property rights. 

The Greenway NHA proudly joins 61 other NHA sites across the country, including iconic and historic landscapes such as New York’s Niagara Falls, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, and North Carolina’s Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Click here to learn about the other NHAs across the country from the National Park Service, and be sure to check out Washington state’s other National Heritage Area – the Maritime Washington NHA!

What are the Greenway NHA Goals?

In fulfilling the legislative duties of the NHA, the Greenway NHA seeks to achieve goals that reflect a combination of traditional conservation and historic preservation, interpretive aspirations, and a commitment to building more diverse and inclusive partnerships:

  • Amplify the region’s rich history and natural heritage through interpretive and educational programming for the public.
  • Uplift the region’s tribal heritage and provide a platform for native voices to tell stories of their peoples and be closely involved in ongoing stewardship of the NHA.
  • Promote pride of place and connections to nature in Greenway communities through appreciation of local heritage and stewardship of natural resources.
  • Protect and steward natural, cultural, and historic resources through historic preservation, ecological restoration, and collaborative conservation strategies.
  • Grow funding opportunities through private and public partnerships and interagency coordination.
  • Promote responsible recreation activities and heritage-based tourism that are positively linked to protection of NHA resources.

What is the Greenway Trust’s Role in the NHA? 

Congress appointed the Greenway Trust as Coordinating Entity for the Greenway NHA, a role that brings with it certain responsibilities to increase public awareness, protect resources, build partnerships, and develop recreational and educational opportunities in the Greenway NHA. The Greenway Trust is uniquely suited to this charge. For more than thirty years, we have convened coalitions of partners representing diverse interests to conserve and enhance this landscape. As the NHA Coordinating Entity, the Greenway Trust is committed to building on that history and welcoming an even wider community of partners to participate in the Greenway NHA.

As Coordinating Entity, the Greenway Trust is constrained by the same limitations prescribed by the designating legislation regarding the regulatory limits of a National Heritage Area. The Greenway Trust will act as catalyst and convener, as facilitator of partnerships, and as an enthusiastic and inclusive storyteller. Where the Greenway Trust may engage in specific actions on the landscape, such as a habitat restoration or trail maintenance project, it will do so under the authority and purview of the appropriate lead government agency.

What Are the Greenway NHA Themes?

Five Themes articulate the distinctive and defining characteristics of the Mountains to Sound Greenway NHA and serve to guide deeper exploration and understanding of the Greenway landscape and its history and heritage. Each Theme is further elaborated and expanded by more specific associated narratives. 

  • The eyes, voices, and teachings of the FIRST PEOPLE of these lands impart understanding of the Heritage Area from time immemorial to  the present day.
  • The powerful forces of geology and climate create a LANDSCAPE of cultural and natural diversity across the Greenway.
  • The Greenway provides CORRIDORS for wildlife migration, fish passage and human travel.
  • Human RELATIONSHIPS WITH NATURE have shaped the landscape and the culture of the Greenway.
  • The cultural and natural heritage of the Greenway informs our future RESILIENCE and the restoration and renewal of the ecosystems that sustain all life.

We invite you to check out our collection of NHA stories and itineraries, where these themes come to life!

Learn More