Our View: If we build it, they will stay

By Triplicate Staff January 24, 2012 01:22 am

Travelers on the coast highway have good reason to stop in Crescent City, but they don’t necessarily know that.

Every day, we lose opportunities to welcome these visitors. Many of them may be inclined to spend a little time and money rather than just passing through — if they’re enlightened about the area’s attractions and amenities.

That’s what makes the proposal for an Interagency Visitor Center right on the highway at the harbor’s edge such an attractive concept. More than attractive, actually. Downright crucial for the economic future of an area dependent on tourism.

It’s not that out-of-towners aren’t being well-served now, if they find the two information centers tucked away a block off the highway.

Walk into the ground-floor center at Redwood National and State Parks headquarters, and you’re likely to catch an employee behind the counter spreading out a map and regaling visitors with all the outdoor opportunities they’ve happened upon. In minutes, they can customize an adventure based on their interests, their physical abilities, and their time.

A half-block away on the second floor of the Cultural Center, similar service is offered at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. That’s where people learn that they can actually walk out to our signature lighthouse at low tide, or enjoy the craggy coastline along Pebble Beach Drive — two signature features invisible from U.S. Highway 101.

It’s on that highway that countless travelers make snap decisions about whether to tarry or carry on. Most probably never see insubstantial signage mentioning the current visitors’ centers, which end up serving only people who have already decided to investigate their local options.

Imagine the impact a well-designed, one-stop-shopping visitor center would have right on 101.

An artist’s rendering of such a facility appeared on the front page Jan. 7. Next up is a more-detailed design for the proposed two-story building. Within its 13,000-15,000 square feet of space would be displays and interpretative information about Del Norte’s natural and cultural resources. Other amenities could include a gift shop, conference center and a 120-seat auditorium. And what about the skeleton preserved by community activists of that 35-foot sperm whale that washed ashore back in 2008?

An impressive collection of local governments and agencies have already gotten on board, at least tentatively, and Redwood National Park has agreed to fund the daily operation and maintenance.

When the proposal was discussed at a recent Crescent City Harbor Commission meeting, there were understandable questions about just how elaborate the facility should be. The answers will lie in how much money can be raised, but it makes sense to design a top-notch facility and see what kinds of grants can be obtained to make it a reality.

Even a modest visitor center on the highway would pay dividends for our tourism industry. But this is a marvelous opportunity to show off what Del Norte has to offer.

Let’s build a visitor center worthy of the world-class natural amenities we have here. 

— Del Norte Triplicate