Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brainstorm Leads to Ideas for Boardwalk

(From the July 9, 2009 issue of the Grand Haven Tribune)

 Downtown Grand Haven merchants are posting “Support the Boardwalk” signs in the windows of their shops. It’s part of a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the boardwalk, as well as an effort to keep the boardwalk along the channel in good repair for years to come.

The project seems to be picking up momentum. Last weekend when my wife and I walked along the channel, we noticed people selling boardwalk t-shirts to raise money for the effort. Earlier this week I had lunch at Downtown Dogs and noticed the eatery is offering a “Boardwalk Brat,” with 50 cents of each purchase going to the boardwalk fund.

So I started thinking. I do that sometimes. What are some other ways to raise a few bucks for the boardwalk? I came up with 10 ideas.

1. A reality TV show. Get two families to run competing hot dog stands along the boardwalk. But you have the moms work with the opposite families. Meanwhile, they all have to compete in a series of weird obstacle course events. Finally, the team that sells the most hot dogs after a month wins a prize. It’s a combination of the Apprentice, Survivor, and Wife Swap. Trust me, once the Michael Jackson memorial is done, Americans will be ready for something like this. Any network would love to pick up such a show. The ad revenues will be huge.

2. A “Boardwalk Bucks” tourist tax. Residents of the Tri-Cities can show their ID and walk for free, but others will have to proceed through turnsytles and deposit “Boardwalk Bucks” (available at local merchants) in order to enter the boardwalk. This will make the boardwalk even more popular. Have you ever seen the lines to go through turnstyles at Six Flags or Disney? And, it will force more people to patronize local merchants.

3. Issue tickets to irresponsible dog walkers. These people routinely ignore signs prohibiting skateboards or they don’t clean up after their dogs. I once read about something called a “poop deck.” I think it was in Moby Dick or the Caine Mutiny. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but my idea is to build a poop deck just off the boardwalk, where dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets will be forced to stand in shame until they pay a fine. Based on my observations, we could raise all that’s needed with this idea alone.

4. A local Monopoly tournament. Participants would pay a small entry fee and play as normal with a prize for the winner. But anyone who lands on Boardwalk during the game would have to pay real money, with proceeds going to the local boardwalk effort. We could even create a Grand Haven version of the game.

5. Federal stimulus money. Just this week various government officials were calling for more stimulus money because the economy doesn’t seem to be recovering fast enough. In the past, the main criteria for receiving federal funds was that projects be shovel ready. I have seen many families with children walk the boardwalk down to the beach, with their children eagerly wielding plastic buckets and shovels. I think we qualify.

6. A benefit concert. We bring in groups to sing songs referencing boardwalk or walking, such as “Under the Boardwalk” or “Walking on Sunshine.” Hold it in waterfront stadium and charge a premium for proceeds to go to the boardwalk.

7. Hold a Boardwalk Walk and Run. My wife and I run all over the Tri-Cities, including the waterfront. I think from Chinook Pier to the lighthouse and back is about four miles. It would be a fun course, and t-shirts already have been made. A portion of race entry fees would go to the boardwalk fund.

8. Piracy. You read that right. The Grand Haven High School mascot is a buccaneer, a fancy word for pirate. May as well start living up to the name. Get some high school athletes, probably from the swim team, to jump into the channel and board the largest yachts coming through to demand ransom. All of the money “collected” would support the boardwalk. Pirates would not be allowed to seize any booty. But if the yachts have a good sound system they would be allowed to shake their booties for a few minutes before swimming back to the pier with the loot.

9. A boardwalk food festival. Most people walking the boardwalk are also eating something either as they walk or afterwards. A three-day festival featuring everything from the classic Pronto Pups to this year’s new waffles on a stick could be featured. Not only would this be a great promotion and sales boost for the vendors, but a portion raised for the boardwalk would likely be substantial.

10. Pay toilets in the campground. Let’s face it, campers use the boardwalk more than anyone. We may as well take advantage of the fact that they’re a captive audience. If they have to make a deposit before they, you know, we’d raise funds faster than you can flush at the thought.

I’m not sure if the boardwalk committee will like these ideas. If not, they could just ask for donations or something. See you out there.

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