Port of South Whidbey looks ahead at future of Langley marina

FREELAND — Creating a vision for the Langley marina is the easy part.

How to get there, and pay for it, that’s the hard part.

Port of South Whidbey commissioners held a workshop last week to fashion a realistic, workable engineering plan for the marina’s future. In January 2009, they will take over ownership and have every intention of hitting the ground running.

Within 30 to 45 days, commissioners will present their master plan results to the Langley City Council for Langley’s input. Ideas on the table now include more spaces for boats, moving Phil Simon Park and connecting the marina property to town by an elevator, stairwell or tunnel through the nearby bluff.

Commissioners were joined Monday by engineer Greg York from Art Anderson Associates to assess the scope of the work needed for the next five to 10 years.

The first goal is to reconstruct the boat ramp which has been a perennial problem for a long time.

“The ramp has been vetted and we know what to do there, but a lot of upland work needs to be done,” York said.

With the $200,000 already budgeted for the ramp but not used in 2007, the port intends to re-bid the project before the next construction season now that state funding has been lost.

While commissioners agree that expanding harbor capacity is a key focus, they said they must strike the right balance between permanent and transient moorage.

When the city council objected to a plan featuring 200 slips, the port scaled it down — the marina will now have about 100 berths, plus another 14 to 24 adjacent to the new breakwater and along the wave attenuator pier.

“We’re moving from hazy concepts to a clear and technically feasible project,” Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert said.

Although a fueling dock is not included in the next wave of development at the marina, Tapert wanted to maintain the idea in the master plan.

“It might be another way to attract boaters and larger vessels in the future,” he said.

Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden agreed.

“We are in competition with other marinas and we need to offer all the amenities people expect,” she said.

The port will deploy a fuel spill kit, including a floating boom, to deal with accidents and meet shoreline regulations.

Providing a pedestrian connection from the marina to the town will be a major hurdle. Ideas floated include an elevator, a spiral stairway, a tunnel into the bluff or an electric golf cart shuttle service.

“Financing will be the big problem,” York said. “All the options will cost serious money.”

One plan that all the commissioners endorse is moving Phil Simon Park — now a neglected patch of grass tucked next to the bluff — to the waterside part of the marina.

“Rather than an afterthought, the park will become a primary spot for families and visitors to enjoy,” Tapert said. “It just makes sense to have the park close to the water.”

When the port’s new comprehensive plan was first brought to the public, the biggest response came from the kayak community. The marina will have a spot for both rentals and clearly defined access to the water in the shallower sections.

York said that there will be space for 50 or more parking spaces, and an adequate docking spot for float planes.

A major concern is the uplands section. “That area is as important as the water side,” Tapert said. “We want to demonstrate the potential for a public/private collaboration that meets community requirements.”

The port hopes to have all the essential elements in place for a public presentation of the revised harbor master plan at the December meeting of the Langley council.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbey

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