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Camping, alcohol out at festival

LANGLEY — Park district officials said Wednesday they were willing to let the Island Festival return to Community Park next year, but it will be a different world for promoters of the Earth-friendly festival if it does.

Commissioners of the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District gave preliminary approval for a second year for the outdoor concert festival.

But they also added several major conditions: no alcohol, no camping and no noise after 10 p.m.

Plus, the district wants part of the Community Park open for public access during the three-day event.

District officials noted the new conditions could be a deal-breaker for organizers of the festival.

“Obviously this is a different approach from us and may not be acceptable,” said district commissioner Matt Simms.

This year, the district allowed camping on the public property as well as a beer-and-wine garden. Concert promoters have said in the past that more than half of the revenues from the Island Festival would come from the sale of three-day passes to concertgoers who would camp during the event.

Festival promoter Jacob Mosler wasn’t present at the Wednesday meeting. He had pressed commissioners for a decision on next year’s festival by this week so he could contact his investors.

This year’s festival featured national acts and an ambitious line-up of performers and entertainment activities under an umbrella of “sustainability” and respect for Mother Earth.

Organizers said earlier they had lost money on the festival, and it’s unlikely the parks district — which was supposed to receive 10 percent of ticket sales and other revenues — would see much money beyond what was spent to repair park land after the festival was held.

With Mosler a no-show at the meeting, Island Festival volunteer and Langley resident Jonathan Evelegh read a letter dated Sept. 19 from Mosler detailing his ideas for next year’s festival.

In the letter, Mosler wrote that organizers have plans for noise control but insist it is essential to the festival experience to provide “low bass” entertainment after 10 p.m.

“We will closely monitor decibel levels...and welcome an independent third party to conduct the decibel readings,” Mosler wrote.

He added they will increase the number of paid security staff to prevent any illicit activities, make changes to the layout of camping areas and increase the frequency of restroom cleanup.

However, Mosler would not commit to keeping a portion of the park open during daylight hours.

“It is a very complicated and quite possibly a prohibitive adjustment that could threaten the integrity, professionalism and safety of the event,” he wrote.

Attendance at this year’s festival was low. And nearby residents have previously complained to commissioners about loud music blasting from the festival. The criticism continued this week.

Jean Knapp said the festival was three days of misery.

“The noise was in my house on Coles Road until early in the morning,” she said. “Even with the windows closed, I could hear it and it didn’t slow down until after midnight.”

“It weighs on the neighbors pretty heavy,” added Robert Lowey, who lives on Langley Road.

Commissioners said the new restrictions on the festival could pose problems for the concert promoters.

Commissioner Linda Kast said she had talked to Mosler about keeping part of the public park open to those not going to the concert during the day. A camping ban was also a concern.

“Jacob’s view is that camping is an important component of the festival,” she said.

Kast added that the promoter believes a closed park makes security easier to manage.

Simms noted that if the event ended at 10 p.m. each day, people could stay overnight elsewhere.

“Does anyone know how many rooms and campsites are available on South Whidbey?” Simms asked.

Commissioner Allison Tapert wondered whether the district could ask for an additional security deposit up front. The district faced early complaints about festival staff who were drinking during the three-day event.

“From what I’ve heard, one problem revolved around the staff. If we had security answerable to us that might be a solution,” she said.

The district has other concerns, as well.

Commissioner Paul Arand is the high school girls soccer coach. “I’m worried over longterm damage to fields if next year’s event has a huge turn-out,” he said.

“I wonder what the effect would be on our programs if the fields had to be shut down for repair over a long period.”

Board chairman Jim Porter said that shutting down the noise at 10 p.m. is a reasonable request, and added that he has problems with shutting down a park that the public has already paid to use.

Commissioners were unanimous that drinking had no place at the Community Park.

“We took a departure on the issue,” Porter said. “It’s a contradiction to have alcohol in a public park.”

Simms agreed.

“I would not support alcohol or camping and there should be strict controls over noise levels after 10,” he said.

Before this year’s festival, the promoters paid the district a $5,000 deposit. After paying $3,100 for seed, sand and labor to repair ball fields, the district will refund $1,900 to the promoters.

Mosler’s contract with the parks district promised to pay 10 percent of the gross proceeds. However, Mosler has not provided the district with a written breakdown of ticket sales and other revenues.

Members asked director Terri Arnold to tell Mosler that, provided the new conditions are met, planning for the next Island Festival can tentatively proceed.

“(Jacob) will undoubtedly be disappointed when he gets the news,” Evelegh said.

Repeated attempts by The Record to reach Mosler for comment were unsuccessful.

The board’s next regular meeting will be 7:30 p.m, Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Community Health Services building, 5475 Maxwelton Road.

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