The Port of Bellingham approved a contract with Beckwith Consulting Group, a La Conner-based design firm, to identify key issues involved with tourism as part of their recent Birch Bay study.
Port economic development director Dodd Snodgrass said although the $20,000 study is still in the preliminary stages, it should help local officials determine the type of tourists who visit the area as well as what facilities and services are needed most so as to better market the area to visitors.
Birch Bay is a beachfront community with a resident population of about 8,000 and includes a large seasonal population of second homeowners and visitors who are attracted to the community for its amenities such as Birch Bay State Park.
Snodgrass said because Birch Bay is unincorporated and because tourism is a big industry there, the area makes a good candidate for such a study.
“Essentially the port commission wanted to help with this kind of project because it’s something of a scale we can afford to be involved with at this time,” Snodgrass said. “These are small targeted projects that we are able to do when we’re not able to do large, infrastructure projects around the community.”
The process will include a series of in-person surveys of participants of the sandcastle contest on June 26 and Discovery Days Parade on July 17, as well as hand-out/ mail-back and internet surveys of local residents and tourists during the month of July.
The study will be paid for with a fund for non-construction type of economic development projects for small cities, Snodgrass said.
Results from the study will be used to help Birch Bay residents profile the type of tourists who visit the area to decide on the viability of different tourism options and help the Bellingham/ Whatcom County tourism board market those options.
The port, task force, and Beckwith Consulting Group will identify key issues and potentials from the survey results and conduct a public brainstorming workshop with interested business owners and residents from 7 to 9 p.m. August 3 at the Birch Bay Bible Community Church at 7039 Jackson Road.
The results of the workshop will be available for public review and comment from 7 to 9 p.m., August 24 at the Birch Bay Community Church.
Snodgrass said he expects the final document to be completed by the first week of September.