Forks ponders what dawn will break after Twilight hype wanes
By Paige Dickerson
Peninsula Daily News
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The concern over the possibility of a dwindling of the phenomenon -- and its tourist revenue -- dominated a question-and-answer hour with Mayor Bryon Monohon at the Forks Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday.
Several of the some 25 people at the meeting questioned whether Monohon and the city were bracing for the inevitable decrease in tourism after the hype over the teen novels is over.
Since 2007, tens of thousands of fans have visited Forks to view the setting of the four novels by Stephenie Meyer -- Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.
The books were subsequently made into blockbuster movies, creating even more buzz over the rainy town.
With visitation down by about 7 percent in November and December last year, the town is contemplating what the future holds, Monohon said.
Dropped numbers back
"This year when we were budgeting, we dropped the numbers back to 2008 numbers for sales tax," Monohon said.
"All we can do is monitor it and be aware that it won't last forever," Monohon said.
In 2008 and 2009, Forks received about $340,000 in sales tax.
Overall, the town gained about $450,000 in sales tax in 2010 -- with the summer months racking up the biggest numbers in the history of the city, Monohon said.
$450,000 in sales tax
In 2011, the city anticipates an additional $95,000 in sales tax that was projected from the construction of the new Forks High School.
So the sales tax revenue could be about the same as 2010 -- but on a temporary basis.
Monohon said the numbers probably won't drop as low as predicted but that he wanted to be conservative when budgeting.
"One thing we aren't sure of is what will happen this year because there isn't a movie until November," he said, referring to the release date of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1."
"If we get to June and sales are stagnate, we'll know."
The Forks Visitor Center saw a slight drop in visitors signing the guest book in the last months of the year but an increase overall for the year.
Visitor count rose
In November, the center had 1,749 people, compared with 2,935 in November 2009.
December dropped from 2,540 in 2009 to 1,825 in 2010.
But overall, the visitor count rose to 73,000 in 2010 versus 69,975 in 2009.
Marcia Bingham, executive director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce, said she had participated in an economic development committee that had brainstormed ideas in the 1980s and had helped develop tourism in Forks at that time.
"We could give some thought to resurrecting that committee and seeing what we can come up with," she said.
"We all know Twilight won't last forever.
"If anyone has ideas on things we could be doing or things we should be doing, we are always open to hearing from people . . ."
She said the committee, which no longer exists, drew about 100 people to its first meeting.
"This town has been resilient," Bingham said.
"If we need to, we can do it again."
Looking to 2012
Diverting from Twilight-related issues, Monohon said the city budget was a concern especially for 2012.
Because of the economic downturn, state budget issues and shrinking tax revenue, the city will have to re-evaluate every department in 2012, he said.
"We have been lucky because Twilight, in many ways, has floated us through what has been a very difficult time for many cities," he said.
He said there are a few industries, such as small milling work, that could be an opportunity.
"In the business world, we are at a disadvantage because we have no rail. We have some shipping out of Port Angeles, but the infrastructure for the roadway isn't great," he said.
"It is hard to say that we are competitive structurally and through our tax base with other communities in the world."
Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: January 26. 2011 11:22PM