The Record reports that commissioners Jill Johnson and Rick Hannold want to protect citizens from toxic noise by denying a grant to build an additional eight miles of trails on Central Whidbey. By that logic, if officials confirm the Growlers are a health hazard, we should actually shut down all trails in Central Whidbey to protect citizens and tourists.
This is a free country. Unless danger is extremely high, we don’t quarantine whole areas or shut down whole industries. We issue warnings, like labeling cigarettes or having signs for “falling rocks” on highways. Intermittent harm events — rocks, ice, high winds, jet noise — require signage, not crack downs and exclusions.
Under the Growler flight paths, let’s have signs like those that say “Watch for ice” which are folded down in clement weather, and opened when danger is present. A “Loud Jet Noise” sign gives people information to make a responsible choice during Growler training. They can hike at their own risk on the Central Whidbey trails, including, I hope, the eight new miles.
Our trails are part of the allure for tourists, and tourism is the long-term economic life blood of Whidbey. Let’s make tourists aware, not diminish access to trails through our beautiful landscapes.
And there’s even another source of funding: Uncle Sam. Navy personnel who shop and live on the base don’t pay county property or sales taxes. By one calculation, that’s $5.7 million a year in lost tax revenue. With that money we could build trails and put up signs and provide affordable housing and expand bus service. Commissioners, please lobby the Department of Defense for lost taxes rather than withdraw funding for a public good.
Restore funding for the trails. Give us signs rather than take away our pleasures. Treat us like adults. Let us make our own choices.