Members of the Birch Bay community met last week to brainstorm ways of increasing tourism to their unique corner of Washington.
The Birch Bay community tourism workshop took place in the basement of the Birch Bay Bible Community Church on August 3. Beckwith Consulting Group, a La Conner-based community planning and consulting firm, facilitated the workshop.
Tom Beckwith, of the Beckwith Group, said his firm was hired to find out how tourism affects Birch Bay and what measures could be implemented to improve tourist visits to the community.
The Port of Bellingham allocated $20,000 in its 2010 budget to fund the tourism study, said Dodd Snodgrass, an economic development specialist with the port.
Beckwith and his associates spent about two months interviewing Birch Bay business owners and distributing surveys to tourists and community residents in order to gauge overall opinion of Birch Bay as a tourist destination.
The topics discussed at the workshop were gleaned from the survey and interview results, Beckwith said.
The consulting firm’s recommendations based on the workshop results will be presented at an open house on August 23.
This meeting will allow Birch Bay residents to examine and critique the ideas for increasing tourism the firm develops.
Some ideas generated in the workshop included the need for a more centralized downtown area and better exposure. Numerous residents said Birch Bay lacks a central area where tourists can park and explore the community.
“There’s still no middle,” Birch Bay steering committee chair Kathy Berg said. “There’s nothing that tells me I’ve arrived.”
Another main concern was signage. Other residents said hardly anyone would know Birch Bay exists while driving north or south on I-5. A unique Birch Bay logo would attract drivers’ attention and point them to the community, residents explained.
The Beckwith Group plans to post the suggestions they develop to the website of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Surveys can still be submitted and can be found online at www.birchbaychamber.com
. Photo by Jeremy Schwartz