Musing some more on last week’s topic (trying to encourage cruise ships into town by making it more tourist friendly) I’m struck by the absence, in both Eureka and Arcata, by the most obvious and successful tourist-magnet of all: pedestrian streets.
Imagine for a moment that 2nd Street from C to G (Chapalas to the Vance hotel), and F Street from 1st to 3rd, were pedestrianized. That is: vehicles barred from using these blocks from, say, 10 am to 10 pm every day. OK, start off Friday to Sunday as a beta test. We’re so benighted here that the City doesn’t even bar cars on these blocks for four or five hours once a month during Arts Alive!
In Arcata, the equivalent would be to pedestrianize the streets around the plaza, including a couple of blocks north.
Now imagine these walkable blocks with trees (lots of trees!), open-air cafes encroaching beyond the present sidewalk, whimsical street art, flower beds, sculptures, swings for kids. And, because it’s Humboldt with our tweakers and freakers, a beat cop keeping things relatively sane and sober. Now imagine all that through the eyes of a tourist coming to Eureka for the first time.
Too radical? OK then, skip the business attraction part, and go for the landmark selfie capital of Humboldt, Carson Mansion. Look at the opportunities presented by that one block of 2nd where there’s currently a divider between traffic lanes, from M Street (the one the mansion’s on) west to L Street. Make the whole thing into a park. (Traffic would be barely affected, drivers can use 3rd.) Same idea, make it attractive to the visitors who are already there to gawp at William Carson’s folly. Subsidize a coffee shop there. Playground. Climbing wall. Fountain. Bike rental stall. Tourist information booth. (We have a tourist office in the Clarke Museum, but it’s hard to find—you have to stand right in front of it before you realize where it is! First rule of tourist offices: make them super visible!)
All I’m saying is, from a tourist point of view, Eureka is barely working now. The Madaket and Brendan’s buggy rides are great, but there’s so much more we could be doing to attract tourists and their dollars. Louisa and I see so many examples of walkable town centers in Europe, Mexico, Colombia. Here in Sibiu, Romania, where I’m writing this, the whole downtown area is a walker’s paradise. Outdoor cafes, ice cream stalls, a couple of street performers, fountain, trees, a sense of friendliness and unhurriedness pervades. Closer to home, that’s what Santa Monica’s Third Street feels like.
I know, I know. King Kar reigns in the U.S. and it takes a great deal of courage and imagination on the part of our elected leaders to change anything. But if you agree with me that we can do so much more to attract tourists, bite the bullet. If it’s not working, do something different!