Editorial: Take a moment to thank a tourist

Mon, 07/15/2013 - 2:00pm

Those of us who live here are familiar with our love/hate relationship with the summer visitors. It’s bleak here in January and February, so we look forward to “the season” when more restaurants and businesses open and the island comes alive.

But when it does arrive, we become impatient with the bikes, the mopeds, the people who cannot find a crosswalk or a sidewalk, and we’re frustrated with the lines at the Block Island Grocery. The bumper stickers and sentiments we’ve all expressed are clear: We want our island back.

Is this really the message we want to send?

Tourism and the economic health of the island are interdependent. For those who work in inns and restaurants, have bike rental shops and drive taxis, the economic benefit of the summer visitors is obvious. Many people who live here now were introduced to the island as young people working at a summer job.

It’s also more than that. Musicians come here to play. Artists exhibit their work at galleries. Countless island residents display their handcrafted wares in shops. Locally grown produce and flowers are available at the Farmer’s Market. Painters, carpenters, electricians, and construction workers are able to get much-needed employment helping to fix up businesses as they get ready for the season. The way in which summer tourism dollars radiate throughout the island is impressive.

But what about those who just live here and do not work — or those who occupy a home only for a few months? Why would they appreciate the tourists?

It’s all in the numbers. The swelling population in the summer underwrites the cost of a lot of things we take for granted, such as: year-round ferry and plane service; a year-round, full-service grocery store, a weekly newspaper, restaurants and shops; town services that include the upkeep of roads, harbors, a world-class library and a transfer station. Not to mention a school that educates the children of our year-round residents.

Tourism dollars also help support one of the most crucial endeavors of our small island: the ability to conserve acres of land for posterity.

So before we curse tourists, take a moment to reflect. Their enthusiasm and affection for the island helps support many of our necessities.

Now that the summer season is underway, thank the people who come to visit Block Island. We know many of you think of this place as your second home and we look forward to seeing you again.