SURFRIDERS: Survey to set value of coastal tourism, recreation

Results from an online survey will help The Surfrider Foundation determine the social and economic value of tourism and recreation in Washington’s coastal communities.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization working to protect and maintain the enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. There are six Surfrider chapters in Washington: South Sound (in Tacoma); Capitol-Olympia; Seattle; Outer Coast Washington (Westport); Olympic Peninsula (Port Angeles); and Northwest Straits (Bellingham).

The group is working with Portland-based Point 97 to document the recreational use of Washington’s coast.

“The surf community is underappreciated in terms of its financial benefit to the coastal community,” Arnold Schouten, member of the Clallam County Marine Resource Committee and the Surfrider Olympic Peninsula chapter, said in a news release.

Schouten, who has surfed the Olympic Peninsula since the early 1980s, said he believes the survey results will help community leaders and policymakers better understand the state’s coastline, how it is used and its financial benefit to the local businesses.

Recreation along the coast is big business. While looking only at the impact of razor clamming, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife study showed in an average season people spend $22 million.

More than 100 surveys have been completed. Among the most popular activities reported so far include beachgoing, sightseeing, photography, surfing, kayaking and wildlife watching. But the foundation is asking for more people to participate to create a better baseline of data.

Forty-three recreation-dependent businesses in Washington are supporting the survey’s distribution by handing out fliers to their customers and hanging posters in their stores, according to the foundation’s release.

“This study will help policymakers better understand, enhance and protect the coastal recreation activities that are so important to Washington coast residents and business owners,” Cheryl Chen, Point 97 lead project manager, said in the release. “As demands on coastal areas grow, increasing our understanding of existing uses will lead to smarter management of our coastline.”

The survey is being done through an agreement between the foundation and the state Department of Natural Resources, and is part of a larger planning effort called Marine Spatial Planning. The Surfrider survey and other similar work are available at msp.wa.gov.