In review: Holiday weekend proves profitable despite bridge collapse

The I-5 bridge in the water apparently didn't dampen visitor enthusiasm for opening the summer across the water in the San Juan Islands.

The wet weather may have kept some visitors indoors, said Susie Doyle of Susie's Mopeds, but she doesn't think people were deterred by traffic delays, and she's confident "we'll all do well this summer."

Pete Ansich of San Juan Excursions said his Memorial Day business was down 10-15 percent compared to 2012, but doesn't attribute that to the detour, which he says "was not an issue" for his guests.

"Nobody cancelled," he said.

Ansich is looking forward to better weather and the expected early July return of K and L pods to join J pod, which "this year, like other years, arrived already."

The northern section of the bridge fell into the Skagit River, May 23, one day before the start of the Memorial Day weekend, when a southbound Mullen Trucking Co. truck hauling a large housing for mining equipment clipped one or more load-bearing supporting struts as it crossed the bridge. The over-height truck was accompanied by a pilot car with a vertical measuring pole which, according to witnesses, also struck the bridge in front of the truck following behind.

According to Washington State Ferries, the Anacortes-San Juans routes saw a 5-percent increase in vehicle traffic over Memorial Day weekend compared to the same 3-day holiday the year before.

Hotels and restaurants noted few or no cancellations, and local retailers and realtors expressed satisfaction with sales and traffic as the summer season began in earnest on San Juan Island.

Anna-Maria de Freitas of Harrison House and Tucker House said both the BandBs and Coho Restaurant were completely booked, though she did have two cancellations for dinner. She used her Facebook site, tweets and direct e-mails to assure guests they could make it to Friday Harbor without problems - which guests confirmed upon arrival, several of whom told de Freitas that taking the Fir Island Road cutoff at Conway was enjoyable and scenic.

Laura Saccio of Earthbox also reported a sold-out weekend and "happy guests" who enjoyed the detour route. She doesn't think the I-5 blockage for a couple of weeks will cause people to stay home. She's looking ahead eagerly to some fine summer weather and increased traffic. Girlfriends clothing consignment shop was "crazy busy," said owner Debbie Dardanelli, especially Memorial Day afternoon, when ferries were running late.

"People in the overflow lots were faced with as much as a two-hour wait, so they shopped their way down Nichols Street and kept me here until 7 p.m.," Dardanelli said.

At the other end of Nichols Street, Terry Holt of Castaways consignments said, "Business was good all weekend." Holt says he's optimistic that the recession is ending and that summer crowds, especially day-trippers, will grow.

At Roche Harbor Resort, the seaside village was crowded with boats and hotel guests.

"We had a good weekend, with minimal cancellations - maybe because we e-mailed all arriving guests on Friday, telling them how to bypass Mount Vernon," resort General Manager Brent Snow said.

Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher praised the visitors bureau, the Economic Development Council and San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce for "working hard together to get the word out" that the San Juan islands was open for visitors and friendlier than ever.

"It all worked," Lacher said. "We're looking forward to a great summer season."


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