Birch Bay study calls for better connectivity

Published on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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The $20,000 tourism study conducted on Birch Bay is done, and consultants recommended a range of suggestions, including traffic changes.

The La Conner-based firm Beckwith Consulting was hired by the Port of Bellingham  in June and has since studied to develop ways to make the area more attractive to tourists.

The study details 15 specific recommendations that Beckwith Consulting has determined will be the most beneficial toward the goal of increased tourism in Birch Bay. In addition to using its experience consulting on numerous tourism revitalization projects most recently in Chehalis and Kennewick, the firm garnered input from Birch Bay residents on how to improve the community for both their and tourists’ benefit.

The tasks range from updating Birch Bay’s website to include more social media and installing way-finding signage around the community, to completing the berm project and working with the Blaine school district to build a new elementary school. The tourism plan also picks out the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce as the lead organization for most of the tourism-increasing efforts.

The most substantial changes to the area that the plan proposes are the addition of smaller roads to better connect the community and the development of the berm project along Birch Bay Drive.

No possible costs for either project were included in the plan.

The plan proposes at least 10 new roads, mostly connecting Blaine Road with Birch Bay Drive. The main focus of these additional roads would be to create a larger grid road system that would facilitate both tourist and resident traffic to and from the shoreline.

The berm project would create clearly marked pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths on the west side of Birch Bay Drive, in addition to transferring all the power lines running along the road underground.

The shoreline improvements would offer more beach access and help protect the roadway from storm surges.

The county listed the berm project as third on its 2011 construction list in early October. The estimated funding years for the $7.1 million project are 2013-2014. According to the tourism plan, county public works is working on determining what rights-of-way need to be acquired for the project to proceed.

The plan is available to view by visiting www.birchbayinfo.org and clicking on “Economic Development.”