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County moves to secure free beach
The clock is ticking to get a prospective beach donation on Mutiny Bay into public ownership and county officials said last week that they are gearing up to get the deal done themselves, before the opportunity slips away.
Bill Oakes, director of Island County Public Works, said Friday he had been hoping that one of two public agencies on South Whidbey would accept the property outright, but those prospects aren’t materializing.
At least not quickly enough.
According to Oakes, the owner wants the deal done by the end of the year. That leaves little time to satisfy all the legal requirements needed to secure the property into public ownership.
“Someone needs to get started to make this happen,” Oakes said. “If that has to be the county, with our two partial people, we will drop everything to make that happen because it’s that important.”
The property in question, which Oakes called a “gem,” is adjacent to the Mutiny Bay boat launch on Robinson Road and includes nearly 300 feet of sandy shoreline.
While it is already widely used by the public, owner Frank Robinson, founder of the Robinson Helicopter Company, wants to ensure it is available for future generations by permanently preserving it under public ownership.
Public Works, the umbrella agency for the county’s parks department, is struggling to make ends meet and Oakes had hoped either the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District or the Port of South Whidbey would take the reins on the property.
Although there appears to be some confusion over the matter, Oakes said park district officials initially communicated that they didn’t want the property, at least outright, so he pinned his hopes on the port.
Port commissioners did discuss the issue at a recent meeting but, with a range of concerns, the board tabled the matter for further consideration.
While it now seems as though the county will have to accept the property to meet the deadline, parks district Commissioner Don Wood said the board is, and has always been, interested in the Robinson beach.
Just not immediately.
“Yes, we’re definitely interested,” said Wood, who is also chairman of the board. “We’re just not in the position to take on that property now.”
Wood said district officials had believed from the beginning that the county was going to do the work to get the property into public ownership and then discussions would begin about future management.
Like the county, the district is struggling with budget troubles of its own and has more property than it can easily handle. In fact, the district recently accepted stewardship of three state-owned lakes on South Whidbey when county officials said they could not longer manage them.
District Director Terri Arnold said that has come at some expense and she has concerns about taking on the Robinson property, which is located a long way from the district’s headquarters on Maxwelton Road.
“This would add to that maintenance burden,” Arnold said.
Wood envisions a partnership, possibly among all three public agencies, for the Robinson property. He is hoping that everyone can sit at a table soon and discuss the property’s future.
However, if such a venture proves unworkable, Wood said the district would strongly look at sole stewardship.
“We would definitely, seriously consider it, yes,” he said.