The authors of the San Juan Island Destination Plan are to be commended for their hard work and for recognizing that tourism of the islands must be managed. Unfortunately, the Plan, as presented, is at times inadequate and others counterproductive. The error is in failing to recognize the important goals that should have been considered.
In 2018 the Department of Community Development surveyed and conducted workshops on tourism. 94% of respondents felt that the county was at or above capacity for tourists. 80% of businesses agreed. Sadly, the Destination Management Plan, as written, is heavily weighted towards improving the tourist experience and increasing tourism, at least in the shoulder seasons.
Rather than increasing tourism, the goal should be to maximize the economic benefits to islanders while minimizing the impact of visitors. Ultimately, the only way to decrease the impact of visitors is to limit the number of visitors.
We should not encourage forms of tourism which contribute little to the economy such as camping. Increasing camping spaces, adding restroom facilities and increased parking and trail heads is not supportive of the island economy. These should be discouraged.
Tourists should be encouraged to use the facilities provided by the hoteliers, restaurant owners and vacation rental owners who are island residents so that those dollars stay here. At the same time, ownership of island businesses by non-residents and seasonal owners should be discouraged so that those dollars are not taken away.
I encourage you to reject the plan.