by Lin McNulty
Do Eastsound streets and sidewalks seem unusually crowded this summer? Lance Evans from the Orcas Chamber of Commerce says that everywhere he goes on the island these days, there is talk about how busy this summer has been.
Traffic at intersections controlled by a stop sign has been congested on multiple occasions, with Main Street traffic occasionally backed up from North Beach Road all the way back to Orcas Road.
According to an August 16 report from WSF, the entire ferry system carried more than 2.5 million riders during July 2013. System-wide, this was the busiest July since 2007.
Jason Linnes of Island Market states it has been “a fantastic summer” for the local grocery store.
According to Stephanie Tillman of Orcas Outfitters it has definitely been busier this year than at least the last couple of years. “There have been a lot more people coming through the store,” she says.
Is it the weather? Is it growth in the overall economy? Is the recession over? Are most of our visitors Washingtonians who can’t afford to go to far-away vacation destinations? There’s really no way of knowing the reasons folks come to Orcas unless we ask them to fill out questionnaires before disembarking the ferry (which might make for an interesting project for some enterprising high school senior).
San Juan County Sheriff’s Office also readily admits they has been extremely busy, although specific statistics on number of calls is not readily available. Orcas Island Fire and Rescue reports year-to-date responses have increased 33 percent from 2011.
Chimayo’s Bill Patterson quickly noted that it is, and has been, very, very busy, with no time to go into details.
An anonymous source at Rosario states it has been “crazy busy” with many, many events going on.
Madrona Bar & Grill manager Michelle Troutman says, with a sigh, “it has been very, very busy.”
Country Corner Manager Dave Mowrey has noticed a definite increase in business and estimates their business is up by about 12 percent over last year.
And what about The Lower, which every summer expands seating capacity by adding “the beach” to the parking lot? I have personally seen wait staff running between tables to keep up.
While all agree it has been an extremely active season, it is perhaps for this very reason that they don’t yet have statistics available on percentage increases. It will need to slow down a bit before there is room to breathe and collect that data.