Birch Bay residents review tourism meeting results

Published on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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Members of the Birch Bay community once again found their way to the basement of a church on Jackson Road Monday evening to discuss the future of their home by the bay.

Planning consultants with Beckwith Consulting, a La Conner-based community planning and consulting firm, presented the results of the August 3 brainstorming session at Birch Bay Bible Community Church. The firm gleaned concrete suggestions for ways to increase tourism to Birch Bay from commonly discussed points at the previous meeting.

“We're hopeful this will not become another study to put on the shelf, but will actually be implemented,” Birch Bay steering committee chair Kathy Berg said.

The Port of Bellingham allocated $20,000 in its 2010 budget to fund the tourism study.

Tom Beckwith, of the consulting firm, explained 13 main concepts that the firm recognized as being of vital importance to any tourism-increasing efforts in Birch Bay. He said these topics will be further refined within the next two weeks, and a refined version of the study will be posted on the Birch Bay Chamber of commerce’s website where people will be able to leave comments.

The 13 concepts fall into four larger categories, Beckwith said: Organization, economics, promotion and design. Attendees of the meeting were given the opportunity to say how much they liked or disliked each specific concept on ballots handed out by the firm.

The organization and economics categories included expanding chamber of commerce coordination and working to recruit businesses to Birch Bay. Beckwith said the chamber of commerce has to serve as the nucleus of the community’s tourism efforts and must develop relationships with county and state agencies in order to get things done.

Business recruitment must be targeted to specific businesses and must involve outreach to potential vendors, he said. The community must seek out businesses it wants in Birch Bay and tell them why the community is the best place to set up shop.

“Recruiting business is not done with a shotgun,” Beckwith said. “It's done with a rifle with a high-powered scope.”

The promotion and design categories covered the majority of the 13 concepts. The ideas of developing so-called way-finding signage, signs that tell people where things are in Birch Bay, and what to do with the vacant Blue Fish building, located near the center of the beach, seemed to induce conversation among the attendees.

Beckwith said the addition of way-finding and gateway signs, signs that tell tourists they have entered Birch Bay, will necessitate a logo for the community. Residents at the meeting discussed several ideas for such a logo, such as a stylized aerial view of the bay and a seagull.

The firm determined that the Blue Fish building would most effectively serve the community if it were turned into public space that included restrooms and a concession stand. Beckwith, along with a few residents, pointed out the building should not be demolished for fear that the community might never get the building's waterfront position back.

Other residents cautioned installing any public facilities in the buildings because of its history of being damaged by storms. They cautioned the community should not take too much responsibility for a building constructed on such a precarious spot.