July 2, 2008

Preserving the Endangered Net Sheds: Feasibility Study Spotlights Waterfront Icons

By Susan Schell, The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.

Jul. 2--Sandwiched between the ever-expanding structures surrounding Gig Harbor's waterfront stand the denizens of the harbor's original industry. Net sheds jut out over the water on wooden supports --12 of them are still functioning as commercial net sheds for mending and storing the fishing fleet's nets and other gear.

The sheds have recently gained attention from the state by being selected to appear on the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation's "2008 Most Endangered Historic Properties List." A $15,000 grant to survey the net sheds was awarded to the City of Gig Harbor by the state's Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP).

Michael Houser, State Architectural Historian for DAHP, said the city received the grant for a Historic American Building Survey, for an official recordation of the sheds.

There are 17 net sheds within city limits, and the DAHP named 16 of them endangered. The one that did not make the list had been remodeled, so it didn't fit the criteria for a historic structure, said Lita Dawn Stanton, historic preservation coordinator for the City of Gig Harbor.

"They're conducting a feasibility study with the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to become a national heritage area," Stanton said. "Right now there are no maritime heritage areas in the U.S."

Stanton said that, within the past few years, the city has taken measures to preserve the structures by passing a net shed ordinance, which allows the sheds to not be included in the city's 3,500-square-foot footprint limit on waterfront properties.

"You can't build over the water any more," she said. "We passed the net shed ordinance to actively give incentives to preserve them. Recent attention for these historic structures gives a big boost to waterfront preservation. This whole story of Puget Sound all of a sudden takes on heightened relevance, because it becomes of national importance. It is telling our maritime history by water."

"This is very important to our plan for the city," said Laureen Lund, the city's marketing director. "Our goal all along for the past 10 years has been to maintain the authentic maritime feel of downtown as part of our tourism plan."

Lund said that working hand-in-hand with the preservationists leads to the quality of life in the harbor.

"This is instrumental for a good experience for visitors, which, in turn, creates a stronger economy," she said.

Reach reporter Susan Schell at 253-853-9240 or by e-mail at [email protected]


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.

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