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Deception Pass State Park may be added to the national and state historic registers

Anacortes resident Jerry Baker casts for salmon underneath historic Deception Pass Bridge Friday morning.  - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
Anacortes resident Jerry Baker casts for salmon underneath historic Deception Pass Bridge Friday morning.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

Deception Pass State Park has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register.

It’s an honor that may improve the park’s opportunities for grant funding, but offers no new protection or restrictions on the park or surrounding areas.

Deception Park Manager Jack Hartt is something of an expert on the park’s history. He said the bridge and another area of the park are already in the national register, but the entire 3,380 acres should be added.

“There are a lot of different narratives that meld here and create a mosaic of stories that weave together,” he said.

Hartt said that the pass — with fertile shellfish beds and salmon running close to shore — was home to at least two different Native American tribes. In the 20th century, prisoners were used to quarry rock from the steep cliffs.

The park itself was created by a group of unemployed young men brought in from all over the nation in the 1930s. The “boys” of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era New Deal program, built the roads and trails throughout the park. They built the famous rock walls on the side of Highway 20 and many other walls and fences within the park.

Using native materials, they built many dozens of buildings, including shelters, pump houses, latrines and a caretaker’s residence. The distinctive buildings are still used by visitors today.

“The workmanship is just incredible,” Hartt said, but added that maintaining the 70-year-old structures takes a lot of work.

“It’s a treasure for all of us and we need to take care of it,” he said.

Of course, there’s the famous and historic Deception Pass Bridge that connects the two sides of the park. It was listed in the national register in 1982, but the rest of the park was left out.

Michael Houser, an architectural historian with the state, said it’s very likely that the park will be added to the state and national registers. The Governor’s Advisory Council meets Oct. 11 to discuss whether to recommend the listing. A decision will likely be made later this year.

Houser emphasized that the listings don’t bring about any restrictions and don’t protect structures, which he said are common misconceptions.

“It’s strictly honorary,” he said.

If the park is listed, a plan will be developed that documents all the historic aspects of the park and maps out how the park can maintain the integrity of the history, Houser said.

Houser said the listings don’t come with funding, but it could help the park with grant funding.

“The national register isn’t a golden ticket to grants, but it gives you some great brownie points,” he said.

 

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