Mountain, City, Sea – Our vision, our work, our identity and our destiny

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

As a typical Tacoma born and raised person I have a near curmudgeon-like response to praise or even recognition of the unique characteristics most of us, especially those of us raised around here, take for granted.

Not long ago I was talking to my grand daughter and mentioned in passing that I have several cousins in Kansas.

As a normal six-year old, she asked the obvious question, “What’s in Kansas?”

I wasn’t prepared for the question and took the easy way out by telling her what wasn’t in Kansas.

“In Kansas they don’t have forests. Or mountains. Or islands. Or ferries. Or saltwater beaches.”

Her eyes widened as if she could not even imagine such a barren landscape.

“What do they have there?”

I stumbled to answer, “They have farms.”

I realized then, what most visitors discover – especially those who first see our region from the air as they fly in – the Puget Sound region is a geographic compilation – almost as if its creator decided to pile everything used to make the entire continent into the final northwest corner.

But that’s not all. If you drive through many cities of the mid-west, they tend to look the same – as if the landmarks were brand-name big box stores on some sort of repeat cycle along the highways.

In other words, the culture is as monotonous as the landscape.

We have a few short stretches like this, but in other parts of the country, that literally is the landscape – not the exception.

Our islands, ferries, mountain passes, tunnels, bridges, hills and bays make such commercial stretches difficult if not impossible.

And yes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mountain City Sea

As a typical Tacoma native, I do have a slight quibble with the tagline Mountain City Sea – yes, our geography is photogenically stunning, rare if not unique, but I’d have to assert that it is what it offers – or even demands from us that makes the real difference.

The mountains provide natural resources from water to timber – and wilderness, adventure, and even danger. Our central city, Tacoma, has become, almost accidentally, a city known for its art and culture. We, for many reasons, historical and cultural, have been almost isolated and very independent yet one of our largest employers and one of our key defining features is our Port which connects us to almost every corner of the world.

The sea is our playground, our vista and our gateway to the markets and cultures of the world. And our city and its history reflects this continual encounter with cultures, faiths and ethnicities from across the globe.

The sea is also near mythic with its seals, salmon and shifting tides and mysteries – and hazards. The literal shape of our city changes, and will change even more in the future because of the surge of the sea.

Yes, Tacoma is an amazing place.

Some of us have known it all along, while others are just discovering it.

But even those of us who have been here our whole lives can still be surprised.


Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports

Mountain, City, Sea – together they define and create us

As part of a merger process began in January of this year, Pierce County’s two largest destination marketing organizations today announced a new joint name, new logo and new tagline.

The organizations formerly known separately as Travel Tacoma + Pierce County and the Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission will now jointly be named Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports. Their new tagline is MOUNTAIN CITY SEA.

The merger allows the organizations to reach all visitor channels; those visiting Pierce County for meetings, conventions, sporting events or leisure.

The new name

The new name contains two major geographic locators for visitors: Tacoma and Mount Rainier. Mount Rainier serves not only as Pierce County’s most visible and identifiable tourism asset, it’s also an icon that represents Washington state to both in-state and national audiences.

“Mount Rainier represents Washington state on our state quarter, our license plates, our state postage stamp and in too many other ways to name, and we’re lucky that it also happens to be here in Pierce County,” said Dean Burke, president and CEO of Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports. “You can see the mountain from lots of places in Washington, but it rises over our cities and our waterways in a way that makes everything in its shadow that much better. You can feel its gravity when you’re here. And when someone really wants to get on the mountain and experience it through hiking, snowshoeing or climbing, they’re going to do it in Pierce County.”

Adding “tourism and sports” to the name reflects that the new organization serves all channels of visitor: meetings, conventions, sports and leisure.


The new logo

Along with the new name, Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier also unveiled a minimalist, text-based logo. The new emblem representing the organization is meant to be seen on top of vivid photography of the region.

“Photography sells our destination,” Burke said. “When people see images of our geographic platform, convincing them to come is a much easier proposition. Most tourism logos have some graphic element, but it’d be a shame for us to have a logo that competes with what nature has given us.”

The new tagline

Burke brought the MOUNTAIN CITY SEA tagline from his previous role as executive director of the Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission.

“With your feet in the saltwater shores of Commencement Bay, you could shine a laser at the peak of Mount Rainier, and it’s only 42 miles away,” Burke said. “In that 42 miles, you have incredible geographic and cultural diversity, and the experiences those mean for a visitor are rare and valuable. This is the trifecta of what a destination can offer. Most destinations have one of the three. A few have two. We’re one of only a handful in the country that have all three: A major mountain, a metropolitan city and a saltwater sea.”

– Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports

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