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Island County moves ahead to accept Mutiny Bay beach

Island County officials have begun taking steps to secure nearly 300 feet of Mutiny Bay beachfront property into public ownership.

Steve Marx, assistant director of Island County Public Works, confirmed Thursday that the department had started the process to legally transfer the shoreline property into government hands.

Owned by longtime former South Whidbey resident Frank Robinson, the founder of the Robinson Helicopter Company, the now California resident has for several years wanted to donate the beach to the public.

Robinson’s health is failing and family members assisting with the donation have expressed a desire to complete the transfer by the end of the year or as soon as possible, according to Marx.

The process is somewhat time consuming, involving several steps including official approval by the Island County commissioners, and Marx said he was unsure whether they would be able to get everything wrapped up by New Year’s.

“We’re hoping to get it done by the end of the year or very shortly afterwards,” Marx said.

Public Works Director Bill Oakes presented the board with the donation proposal early last month. At the time, he explained that due to a limited parks staff and budget, he was hoping the Port of South Whidbey or South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District would step up and take on the property.

While both junior taxing districts have since made it clear that they are willing to discuss the possibility of future partnerships, neither moved to accept the property outright.

Officials from both public agencies expressed concerns about associated maintenance costs of the property, from garbage pickup to the expense of providing a place to sit, said Terri Arnold, director of the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District.

“It’s hard for us to jump in with both feet before we know what the expectation will be,” Arnold said.

A joint meeting with the parks district, the port and the county was proposed to discuss the beach’s future management, but getting representatives from three public agencies together just before the holidays is like herding cats.

Arnold said she has been trying to hammer out a time when everyone can meet but has so far been unsuccessful.

She reaffirmed, however, that the parks district is interested in the beach front.

“I think the parks district will definitely have a role there but we need to understand all the ins and outs of the property,” she said.

 

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