Destination plan means build it and they will come | Guest column

I heartly support Steve Hudson’s 10/25/2023 letter “Reject Destination Management Plan” with my comments attached:

After exhaustive review by this long-time San Juan Island resident, I have come to the overall conclusion that the San Juan Islands Destination Management Plan is a move by the consultant under the direction of the County, Tourism Board or other economic players to impose a “build it and they will come” scenario (BIATWC) on the residents of San Juan County and have us foot a major portion of the bill for the unwanted and detrimental over expansion of tourism in the islands.

While there are some minor positive outcomes identified, mostly currently being implemented by current county entities, these are small expenditures when compared to the large-scale proposed costs. These include, “additional camping units for $7 million, temporary housing for $4 million, plus or minus 30%”, let alone the grandiose improvements at Agate Beach to the tune of $11.35 million. These expenditures, along with the proposed “vehicle reduction use plan” to insure car-free transportation on the islands ($9 million), are exactly what the residents of this county neither want or need. Is there really a need to shut down the flow of traffic southbound on Westside Road (on SJI), thus creating a one-way road along our beautiful western shore just “to enhance the visitor experience” during the summer months? How do we deal with resident traffic flow, special needs transportation and emergency vehicles?

Let us look at the “proposed trail expansion plan” to the tune of over $9 million. With 85% of the San Juan Islands being in private ownership and most of the proposed trail expansion encroaching either partially or entirely on private property, this idea is little more than a “pipe dream.” There are numerous opportunities to utilize and enhance existing trails without the need to buy up all the private lands on the islands to make a crisscross maze of trails to “enhance the visitor experience.”

Under the Management section, there are several examples of positive outcomes that I have alluded to earlier. These outcomes are in general, currently being implemented or could and probably should be implemented. Then this proposed Visitor “Expansion,” I mean Management plan takes a dive. The proposal for taxes with a capital T rears its ugly head. To fund the aforementioned “BIATWC” scenario, all (resident and non-resident) boats, ships, planes and automobiles (and lets not forget motorcycles and bicycles) will be required to purchase and display a sticker, stamp or additional tab to utilize said mode of transportation on the islands. Did I mention a parking stamp to utilize the dwindling parking spaces on the islands? For residents, this is on top of county property tax, inflated sales tax (nearly 9%) and all the other expenses that we are charged already to make these islands our home. I for one am willing to pay these (sometimes not so reasonable) fees for the privilege of living here, but to add additional fees and regulations just to fund the BIATWC scenario is too much to ask.

Some of the vehicle and parking management recommendations are more than palatable. These include: individual site-specific evaluations to help control congestion and overuse; better management of traffic flow to and from ferries; and expanding e-vehicle use and infrastructure.

Overall, in my mind, the negative components far outweigh the positive in this plan and I would recommend that we slow down and not rush into the implementation of any long-term “visitor expansion plan” least we become “the Martha’s Vinyard” of the west coast (as the stated goal of the consultant alludes to).

Doug Hunt

San Juan Island