The branding project underway by the Town of Friday Harbor, is an incredible opportunity to determine the future of San Juan Island.
Currently school enrollment is declining, the middle class is disappearing, 40 percent of homes are second homes, the average age of residents is the highest in the state.
Successful branding could increase the tax base, attract families to move here and provide employment so some of the young people would stay.
Roger Brooks, who is working with the town to create a brand, says the key is defining your niche. What makes Friday Harbor different from every other place.
I'd like to offer a suggestion. We become known for the abundant learning opportunities we have here. We create a niche of being the place where you can learn to fish, cook, farm, create art, quilt, kayak, scuba dive, garden, act, sing, bird and more. Where you can learn about orcas and other marine life, about films and film-makers, about the Pig War and other history.
San Juan Island has one of the most highly educated populations in the state. We have many talented and accomplished people, some of them retired from high-powered careers, who have expertise in a wide variety of fields. We have an incredible natural environment.
We could expand on what we already do. Whale-watching tours already include naturalists who play an important role in educating people about the plight of the whales. The hikes, workshops and presentations at American and English Camps - especially the annual Encampment - provide living history lessons as does the San Juan Historical Museum. The Whale Museum offers many learning experiences including its pod nods for youngsters.
San Juan Island Library provides presentations, film screenings and discussions. The Friday Harbor Film Festival included forums by film-makers. San Juan Community Theatre provides workshops. You get the idea.
It is a niche that almost everybody on the island could be a part of it they so desired. It could spread tourism out throughout the year. For example, tourists would take workshops from artists-in-residence on winter weekends increasing business at lodging and dining facilities. Businesses could hold their retreats on the island. The employees attend the retreat, while their significant others choose from a variety of learning experiences.
It would be a way to help ourselves, protect our environment and share the riches of living in such a beautiful place.
That's one idea. If you want to weigh in on the branding project, be sure to fill out the survey on the town's website.