If you have a hotel booking in the San Juan Islands for this weekend, the word from the islands is: Please try to come anyway. But if you need to cancel, call and you might get a sympathetic ear.
For the tourism-dependent San Juans, the Interstate 5 bridge collapse could hardly have happened at a worst time — the Memorial Day Weekend kickoff of the tourist season.
The I-5 bridge that fell into the Skagit River is just south of the most-used exit, the Burlington exit to Highway 20, for island-bound motorists coming from the Seattle area.
Island promoters Friday morning encouraged visitors to try the detour routes. But some lodging owners are waiving cancellation penalties for bookings for this holiday weekend.
“I know they’ve received hundreds of phone calls last night and this morning,” said Deborah Hopkins Buchanan, executive director of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau. “They’re encouraging people to still come.”
Laura Saccio, owner of Friday Harbor’s Bird Rock Hotel and Earthbox Inn and Spa, said she is waiving cancellation penalties for this weekend and rescheduling when possible, “but we’re telling them we’re still open for business. We’re trying to ease the economic impact on the county.”
Jim Schuh, ranger at popular Moran State Park on Orcas Island, said Friday morning he’d had some calls to reschedule campground reservations.
“We’re working really closely with Emergency Management folks on the islands to get a unified message out,” said Barbara Marrett, communications manager for the visitor bureau. She noted that people can come without a car by taking the Victoria Clipper or taking shuttles to the Anacortes ferry terminal and coming as walk-on passengers. Shuttle van service is available now on San Juan Island and next month on Orcas Island.
Buchanan said her bureau is suggesting Seattle-area drivers use the Fir Island route from Exit 221 at Conway to detour via Fir Island Road and Best Road to Highway 20. See the route on this map from the Washington Department of Transportation.