Summer time and the living is … busy

Outdoor concerts, bustling farmers’ markets, busy hiking trails, limited parking spaces, long overload lines.

It’s summer in the San Juans.

By many accounts, the combination of sunshine and an improving economy has brought bigger crowds to the islands.

For April through June, Washington State Ferries reports an overall rider increase of 1.8 percent for the San Juans routes. Anacortes to Shaw was up 6.5 percent; Lopez was down 1.3 percent; Orcas was up 4.6 percent; Friday Harbor increased by .5 percent. Interisland rider traffic went up 3.8 percent.

The results for July are not yet available, but if word on the street is any indication, it has been an incredible month.

Island Market managers say the store is “doing fantastic” business this summer. Orcas Island Rental Cars reports a 12 percent uptick for May and June, while July numbers appear to be neck and neck with last year.

Orcas Island Chamber Director Lance Evans says foot traffic has been consistent throughout the week and office visits are higher than last year.

After we put a query out on Facebook, business owners on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan said things like: it’s been the best summer ever, business is picking up and it’s hard to find good workers, people are spending – not just looking and leaving.

This is wonderful news for our economy. After a difficult period of financial strain, life is looking sunnier for island businesses.

But with more people traversing our roads and darkening our doorways comes added stress.

Orcas Island Fire and Rescue reports a steady increase for the last two years in EMS calls. From April 1, 2011 to Aug. 1, 2011 there were 234 incidents. The same time period in 2012 saw 271, while for 2013, that number has jumped to 311.

If you see an EMS volunteer, please thank him/her for their hard work. In addition to the extra burden that summer brings, they’ve had to deal with the recent fires in Olga.

We also ask that islanders roll out the welcome mat to tourists. Yes, there are more bicyclists on the road. Yes, it takes a little longer to get served in a restaurant or receive your latte. But these visitors have chosen our special communities in which to spend their hard-earned money, and we want them to return.