Oak Harbor has the potential to attract more visitors to bolster its economy, says the chairman of the village’s downtown revitalization efforts.
However, finding a steady revenue source to rev up the riverfront landscape remains a daunting task.
Every five years the Downtown Revitalization Implementation Committee reviews its successes and failures and renews a plan to keep business growing in the Ottawa County village, according to Mike Shadoan, the committee’s chairman.
Shadoan recently spoke before village council to inform new council members about the group’s history as well as seek a nod for the committee to continue its work.
A survey that the group uses to formulate a plan pinpoints focuses on several areas, including more activities for patrons of downtown businesses, sprucing up downtown, enhanced parking and more places to eat.
A partnership with the village and donations raised by the committee resulted in new flower pots, trash cans, benches and banners spread across the business district in recent years.
However, the village still has far to go, Shadoan said, alluding to rezoning issues and easements. A village attempt to buy a home near the downtown for increased parking space failed last year.
A defined plan for developing the potential of the riverfront is a priority, Shadoan told council.
“We talked about this 25 years ago and we haven’t saved a dime to do a thing,” the chairman lamented. “Having developed the riverfront would get us on the map.”
The village installed docks last year at a cost of $15,000 – money that is supposed to be returned to the village with donations raised by the committee. The village hasn’t recouped the cash yet. The committee, Shadoan said, is still working on fundraising. It did, however, raise $25,000 to cover the other upgrades, according to fiscal officer Debbie Carpenter.
“We have a jet boat group out of Catawba that wants to put us on their calendar for two or three events,” Shadoan noted.
Still, those few docks aren’t enough to sustain these types of events, he said.
“We need to replenish the account. We need to add. We need a kayak and canoe launch,” Shadoan said looking to a shape a riverfront blossoming with activity nearly all year.
Council’s future funding of the revitalization efforts appears in doubt – at least for this year. A $90,000 line item for downtown revitalization projects garnered serious discussion regarding “wants versus needs” later in the meeting as council members haggled over better oversight in the pending 2014 budget.
Mayor Bill Eberle pointed out that the docks available this year could accommodate larger numbers. “They can dock off each other,” he explained to the council. “Picture a braid.”
“Everything we do is to attract people to Oak Harbor -- help businesses here survive and grow. We only do things that will bring people to Oak Harbor. Had we set aside $20,000 or so a year (every year), we’d be in good shape,” Shadoan said. “Unfortunately we have some open store fronts. But we want to make Oak Harbor a viable community again.”
The village has proven its power to draw people to its traditional special events, Val Winterfield, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, noted in an unrelated presentation to council the same night. For example, hundreds will turn out April 12 for the Easter Egg Hunt.
“What we really need to do is to get the people who live here to buy here,” Winterfield said.