It's time to come up with a vision for Oak Harbor's downtown | In Our Opinion

Saturday’s Whidbey News-Times front page article about Pioneer Way has sparked the kind of dialogue that a journalist hopes for.

The article, written by reporter Janis Reid, examined the current state of Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor, and the difficulty in attracting customers to the downtown area.

The article resulted in a lot of comments being posted on whidbeynewtimes.com and the News-Times Facebook page.

These kinds of articles are tough. Nobody wants to come out and say that business isn’t good. However, I received only one call from a business owner who said the closure of their business shouldn’t be lumped in with all the “failures” mentioned in the article.

For the most part, though, downtown business owners talked frankly about the challenges as they see them.

On our Facebook page, we posted the link to the article and asked the question, “Do you shop in downtown Oak Harbor? Why or why not?”

More than 71 responses were posted in response as of Monday. In addition to the many complaints about the one-way street, there were constructive suggestions for livening up the downtown core.

Some suggested moving the Oak Harbor Farmers Market to Pioneer Way.

Whether any or none of these ideas are feasible, it’s clear that the people of Oak Harbor care about the downtown. It speaks to a community-wide desire to devise solutions.

The one-way street is a fact of life now, but that doesn’t have to be a deal-ender. Pioneer Way has a lot to offer, and the potential to offer much more.

Perhaps now is the time for the City of Oak Harbor and Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce to work with the Downtown Merchants Association and come up with a vision plan.

By taking into account the city’s unique conditions, its assets, the rich history and the desires and wants of the city as a whole, it’s possible to come up with a strategic improvement plan.

Though 100 percent agreement is likely unobtainable, any cohesive, thought-out plan that involves the downtown merchants, building owners and community at large would certainly be better than no plan at all.

It’s possible to turn around Oak Harbor’s downtown, it’s just going to take a little bit of work and a whole lot of heart.

How about it, Oak Harbor, are you up for this challenge?


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