Oak Harbor hires an expert to make tourists stop and notice

OAK HARBOR – On Tuesday, tourism consultant Roger Brooks will unveil his recommendations for turning Oak Harbor into a more tourist-friendly town.

Brooks will lay out everything from a new nautical-inspired city logo to a redesigned City Beach Park with vendor kiosks for renting bicycles and kayaks. Brooks also has plans to create a special events center at the popular park.

“Oak Harbor can barely find a place to house chamber of commerce meetings, let alone any kind of event,” Brooks said. “It’s about time that happened.”

Brooks said he will also reveal plans aimed at better connecting the city’s downtown with City Beach Park.

Brooks, 51, is CEO of Destination Development Inc., a tourism and resort development company in Olympia. He was hired by the city last year to come up with a set of real-world, workable plans that capitalize on Oak Harbor’s existing natural assets.

The city’s goal is to create a more picturesque, livable community that better caters to tourists, who tend to pass through on their way to other parts of Whidbey Island.

“You can’t name a more beautiful setting anywhere,” Brooks said. “With Mount Baker in the background, the Olympics and the water, the setting in Oak Harbor is phenomenal. It’s world class.”

For Tuesday’s meeting, Brooks will bring along drawings to give the public a peek at what’s in store for the city in the coming months.

He has an extensive history working to turn around tourism in towns from Ellensburg to Ocean Shores.

In Ocean Shores, population 3,000, Brooks and his team helped recruit $150 million in new development. It now ranks 11th in the state in lodging revenue, Brooks said.

All told, Brooks has worked in 260 communities in 37 states.

“Tourism,” Brooks said, “isn’t always about bringing in more and more visitors. Our first effort is to get visitors already on Whidbey Island to spend more time in Oak Harbor, rather than just drive through. If Oak Harbor could just do that, it would be wildly successful.”

Tuesday’s workshop begins at 6 p.m. at the city library, 1000 SE Regatta Drive. Oak Harbor City Council members will consider adopting Brooks’ proposals at a council meeting March 1.

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