Editor's Column: City loses out on tourist attraction

I was willing to give Roger Brooks, the city of Oak Harbor’s $48,000 tourism consultant, the benefit of the doubt. Sure, some people thought we had already paid enough for consultants and it was time to pour some concrete and build something — anything — to attract tourists. Trouble was, we didn’t know what to build. That was Mr. Brooks’ responsibility, but he blew it. He let someone else get away with the best tourist attraction idea in at least a decade. Soap Lake has landed the World’s Largest Lava Lamp. Oak Harbor was left looking dazed and confused, like a Seahawks receiver as a pass he didn’t even know was coming bounces off his helmet.

While Roger Brooks was proposing a metal building for City Beach Park (imagine the number of people willing to pay to see a metal building!), Soap Lake was going after the golden fleece of tourism, the giant lava lamp. One resident came up with the idea, figuring that a large lamp filled with gurgling clumps of bright mobile globules would be better than the town’s other tourist attraction — a rancid lake.

I have a personal hate-hate relationship with Soap Lake dating back decades. You see, I belonged to one of those families who thought this desert puddle of putrid water has curative powers, so every trip east meant a stop at Soap Lake. As children, our choices were get out and jump in the lake, sit in the station wagon and die of heat asphyxiation or romp in the desert and get bitten by a rattlesnake. Naturally, I chose the rattlesnakes, but one day a particularly cranky snake scared me and chased me into the lake. Curative powers? The millions of dead bugs lining Soap Lake’s shores should tell you something about its powers. The lack of any living creatures at all in the lake should send the same message — not fit for earthlings of any sort — get out!

Over the years, people who believed in Soap Lake’s curative power died (surprise!), leaving the town without tourists. Its only other claim to fame was Bonnie Guitar, a country singer who once was the headline performer at the Island County Fair in Langley, where she attracted five or six admirers. So some genius, who did not cost the town of Soap Lake anywhere near $48,000, came up with the giant lava lamp idea.

What Soap Lake wants is a 60-foot tall custom-made lava lamp. What it will get this week is the 50-foot lava lamp owned by the Target Corp., which has decorated a corner of Times Square, New York City, for a decade or so. It’s a simulated lava lamp, but looks real enough to fill Soap Lake’s need until the real thing can be built.

I recommend members of the Oak Harbor City Council take a bus to Soap Lake to see what a real tourism attraction looks like. Imagine that lava lamp at City Beach Park and weep. But whatever you do, don’t go near the water.

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