Sometime in the next few weeks, Coupeville will join the growing list of tourist destinations that are viewable online through the Google Maps Street View Partner Program.
A Google crew will come to the historic waterfront town and film the streets from a specially outfitted car or trike.
The car is outfitted with 15 camera lenses along with motion sensors to track its position. The trike – an adult-sized tricycle with a camera mounted between the rear two tires – allows for exploration of areas that vehicles can’t reach.
The street-view images captured by Google’s equipment will give people considering a visit to Coupeville an opportunity to “tour” the town before they even set foot on Whidbey.
That up-close glimpse of a vacation destination is just what Michigan resident Mark Steenbergh would have liked to check out before planning a trip to Whidbey Island.
On a sunny August day, Steenbergh and his family spent several hours wandering through the historic downtown, visiting shops along Front Street.
“Coupeville is wonderful,” Steenbergh said. “My daughters were clamoring to come here. It’s so quaint.”
Before heading to the Northwest for a family trip, Steenbergh logged onto the Internet to research the area.
“I Googled everything I could Google,” he said.
Once Google uploads the images and adds them to the “Street View,” people from all over the world will be able to explore Coupeville – virtually, at least.
Just like a tourist strolling along Front Street, taking in the view of all the historic buildings and the scenic backdrop of Penn Cove, remote visitors will be able to direct the mapping site to spin and give them a 360-degree panoramic view.
“This is really exciting,” said Lynda Eccles, Coupeville Chamber of Commerce executive director. “This could open a lot of doors as far as tourism. Any tourism business is good for the local economy.”
Eccles had contacted Google about a different marketing opportunity for the town, and was approached by the search giant with the idea of creating street views of the historic town – an opportunity that won’t cost the town or the chamber a dime.
According to a Google spokeswoman who declined to be named, the company is committed to providing its users with the “richest, most up-to-date maps possible.”
While the Google employees already knew that Coupeville was special, they have since learned through an e-mail exchange with Eccles that there are even more aspects to the second-oldest town in Washington that make it unique, including Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.
“They were intrigued that there is so much here,” Eccles said.
Coupeville is already fairly well known as a destination, and is the subject of many memorable photographs as well as the focus of frequent articles related to tourism, she said. But the street-view images will help the local tourism industry reach potential visitors in a new way. They will be able to see a virtual Coupeville and decide that it is a place that they want to visit, she said.
“When you go on Google and search and see unique places, you want to visit there,” Eccles said.
The filming dates and exact locations have yet to be determined. The final filming route will be selected based on a variety of factors such as weather or driving conditions, the Google spokeswoman said. The company will do its best to get the imagery uploaded to Google Maps as quickly as possible, she said.