PORT TOWNSEND — A major impact on tourism to the North Olympic Peninsula is expected to be the rehabilitation of U.S. Highway 101 around Lake Crescent that will begin in March, officials said at the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Summit.
The National Park Service and Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau are helping businesses owners prepare for the disruption to the highway to the West End and many of Olympic National Park’s attractions during the summer months when the park and Peninsula are the busiest, said Marsha Massey, executive director of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau (OPVB), and Barb Maynes, park spokeswoman.
The two were discussing projects and issues that could impact 2017 tourism on Friday, the last day of the conference at Fort Worden.
The summit was a two-day conference at Fort Worden where local businesses and city officials from around the North Olympic Peninsula met to discuss how to continue growing tourism in the area. It was hosted by the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission in collaboration with the city of Port Townsend and Fort Worden.
“On Lake Crescent, we’re trying to get people ready for what’s going to happen,” Maynes said. “This is a huge project over the next three construction seasons.”
Starting in March 2017, the Park Service, with some help from the Federal Highway Administration, will begin a total rehabilitation of 12 miles of Highway 101 along Lake Crescent. The project will run from March through November of 2017, 2018 and is expected to be completed by November 2019.
“There’s going to be some delays,” Maynes said. “There’s going to need to be some pre-planning on everyone’s part this summer. We know this is a really important road and a really busy road, and it needs to be rehabbed.”
Thirty-minute delays are expected along with occasional four-hour delays — the latter of which will be announced two weeks in advance, according to Maynes.
Maynes said the roadwork could be an opportunity to induce people to stay longer in Forks and other West End areas so as to avoid delays — especially those four-hour delays, which will be mostly in the morning.
The OPVB plans to debut a new website and new mobile app in 2017 to make planning a trip to the Olympic Peninsula easy for tourists.
Ultimately, the Highway 101 construction project will be good for the park and surrounding communities, especially since the project also comes with upgrades to a bike trail on the opposite side of the lake, Maynes said.
“What we will all need to adjust to is we may not be able to use these areas the way we want when we want,” Maynes said. “The good news is we’ll have a new road and a new bike lane by 2019.”
According to Massey, Olympic National Park is hoping to continue to capitalize on the 2016 centennial celebration of the National Park Service.
“We will continue to see the lift from the national parks celebration,” Massey said. “I think we’ll see a bit of a halo effect.”
Massey said the OPVB hopes to bring in more visitors during the “shoulder seasons,” which are fall and spring — the seasons before and after the consistently busy summer months.
She said the hope is to focus on the growing population of 20-to-40-year-olds flocking to Seattle.
“That’s a market we really need to capitalize on,” Massey said.
Last year, the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission began looking at the shoulder seasons and reached out to another large population in the vicinity, Vancouver Island.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at email@example.com.