Eagle points the way to Oak Harbor

The oak leaf is out and the eagle is in on the Oak Harbor sign meant to lure traffic along Highway 20 toward Whidbey Island.

The sign is located near Country Corner where drivers have to decide whether to keep going toward Anacortes and the San Juans or turn south toward Deception Pass and Oak Harbor.

Priscilla Heidecker, of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said the new eagle-centered billboard was put in place early this fall. “The tag line, ‘Oak Harbor . . . where spirits soar free’, was chosen ever before Sept. 11,” she said. “Because Oak Harbor truly represents freedom, both by our military presence and our natural surroundings and wildlife.”

A small committee chose the new design of the sign. The old, faded oak leaf model had come under some criticism. Mike Page-English, former editor of the News-Times, described it as ugly. That published comment helped spur action toward a new sign, according to Heidecker.

The Chamber of Commerce took over billboard payments from the city of Oak Harbor after receiving a grant from the city’s 2 percent lodging tax. Cost is $424 per month. The chamber paid $778 to update the sign and print the new design featuring the soaring eagle.

Reaction to the sign has been positive. “We have received many compliments, and it really has improved our image to the public,” Heidecker said. Plans are to keep the billboard location for at least three years, and update it annually with a new image.

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