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Tourism: On the wrong tourism tack
I read with great interest the plans which Mr. Brooks outlines to increase tourism dollars in Oak Harbor. I cannot believe the city is paying yet another consultant for his enlightened views.
I have been a Merchant Marine officer for the past 27 years, frequenting all the major port cities on the gulf and east coasts from Corpus Christi, Texas, to St. John, New Brunswick, including Savannah, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston, all of which have renewed waterfronts designed to bring in local and tourist dollars. These cities realize most money will be generated from the 20- to 40-something-year-olds and, as such, caters to them.
These port city waterfronts all have several things in common: many good bars, a variety of good restaurants, clothing shops, entertainment, souvenir shops, art galleries, jewelry shops, specialty shops, and hotels. Old Town Oak Harbor has very few of these. The marina, which does not have a grocery store, bar or restaurant on site, is not easily accessible to downtown. City Beach Park is comfortable to use during the summer, however tourists will need to acclimate to the fine smell of salt air at low tide. Old Town has several restaurants providing you are looking for Mexican, Oriental or Greek food, but good luck trying to find a good steak or seafood dinner.
To bring tourists to Oak Harbor requires the above mentioned businesses. New businesses which fit the above criteria and wish to establish themselves in Old Town should receive tax and rent incentives to assist them. Perhaps the city of Oak Harbor needs to float a bond to purchase all of downtown under the laws of eminent domain and rebuild our tourist trade from the ground up. I feel that Oak Harbor will continue to be what it has grown to become. Oak Harbor is a military town that is unable to keep its young people because of a lack of good and profitable employment which is the result of most jobs being taken by ex-military, retired military, wives of the military or active military working second jobs.
Businesses in town must compete against the Navy Exchange, Commissary and the Navy Hospital. It is a haven for retired military who reside here to take advantage of what the military has to offer them. Oak Harbor does need to improve its tourist trade, but more importantly it needs to develop good employment opportunities, which offer health benefits, in the hope that more of its high school and college graduates will continue to live and raise families here. A towns future rests with its ability to keep its young adults, their ideas and their tax dollars.