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Another roadside attraction in Freeland
Lucy Whitney was out buying groceries, so she didn’t see the gawkers drive by as relatives installed her alligator.
Alligators might look out of place in Freeland, but on Shoreview Drive across from Freeland Park, this one looks right at home. It’s situated at the edge of a watery drainage ditch where the grass will grow tall this spring, and it looks out across the road to the blue waters of Holmes Harbor. It’s a decent imitation of Florida, particularly on this sunny Saturday.
Several male family members and a dog named Ellie were busy cementing the alligator in place. Two years ago, culprits couldn’t resist the temptation of making off with the life-sized alligator some eight feet in length.
Care had been taken to protect the alligator with a coffee-can sized hunk of concrete buried in the ground and a chain linked to the alligator. Unfortunately, the thieves didn’t try tugging at the alligator, they just clipped the chain. What happened next is a matter of speculation, but Whitney found her alligator abandoned alongside the roadway only two blocks away. Perhaps it fell out the back of a speeding pickup, or maybe the thieves didn’t want the notoriety of facing gator theft charges in Island County District Court and simply abandoned it.
Whitney took her alligator home and placed it in her storage building where it sat for over a year, until Brian O’Connor opened the door and saw the alligator staring at him. He contacted a couple of other relatives from the mainland and they went to work. O’Connor doesn’t live here either, but he knows a lot of people through helping them park at the annual Celebrate America fireworks show.
“I park handicapped people on the Fourth of July,” he said proudly. They get a close-up view of the show, while others walk many blocks downhill to the park, and then uphill when the show’s over.
Wayne Anderson headed the alligator reinstallation project, sipping on a light Bud in a blue bottle as he took a break to talk about it. “It was in and someone tried to steal it,” he said, shaking his head. People had been stopping by all day, offering their support for the project. “They have been tremendous,” he said. “Groups of eight or 12 stop by.” He’s not sure exactly where Whitney got her gator, but knows it was “at some craft fair.”
This time, Anderson was determined to make the alligator secure. He and O’Connor and another relative named Roger Flint poured a heavy pad of concrete level with the ground, placed the alligator on top and went about securing it.
“I got bolts on all four legs in the concrete,” Anderson said as he looked admiringly at his work.
Nothing is totally secure from theft, of course, but it would take industrious, hard-working thieves to set this gator free. Anderson doubts that will happen considering all the traffic that passes by and the number of neighbors who can view the alligator from their homes.
The alligator looks right at home now, and once the grass covers signs of the construction project it will be indiscernible from the real thing to people driving, bicycling or walking past.
Who knows, it might become one of Freeland’s biggest roadside attractions: The alligator at Freeland Park.