(2009 aerial by Long Bach Nguyen; click to see a larger version)
Is it better that our spectacular green-surrounded-by-blue peninsula remain a well-kept secret (to most), or is it time to reach out to the outside world and actively invite “sustainable tourism” to West Seattle? That was at the heart of a lively discussion during Sustainable West Seattle‘s community forum last night. You can see and hear what happened in our hourlong unedited video recording – click the image to go to the video clip:
If you don’t have time to watch (or listen, with it playing in the background) click ahead for the toplines:
Four panelists spoke briefly, then the full-on discussion with attendees ensued. West Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Patti Mullen led off with a bit of backstory about how the topic’s long been under discussion.
Next, Greg Whittaker of Alki Kayak Tours and Mountain to Sound Outfitters explained why “sustainable tourism” seems so natural for West Seattle: “We are the gem of the city … the city is one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the U.S.” – and tourists, he said, are “always looking for that additional thing to do,” since “downtown’s been done to death” – Draw visitors to low-impact activities like wildlife-watching in West Seattle, and they may stay in the area one more day. It’s not even just about economic concerns, Whittaker suggested – it could provide environmental education, helping visitors to later make better decisions in their regular lives.
Tourism doesn’t just mean people from out of the city or state or country, it was noted; “staycations” might put you in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard. Whittaker also talked about the first-ever Northwest Paddling Festival he’s helping stage this weekend here in West Seattle (we’ll have more on that later today).
Also on the panel, Heidi Siegelbaum and Steve Gersman, partners with Calyx Sustainable Tourism, who took the big-picture view, including wondering why tourism feels “dirty” to so many – as if there’s something bad or wrong about being a desirable destination.
And questions were raised such as, what’s needed to bring people here and serve them appropriately? Better public transit was mentioned more than once.
There’s no grand master scheme for all this yet – but if you have an idea, get involved with groups like the Chamber and Sustainable WS. (You can meet reps from both during West Seattle Summer Fest July 8-10, among other places – SWS is expected to be tabling at West Seattle Farmers’ Market this Sunday, too.)