South End towns examine their ‘walkability’ appeal

CLINTON — Langley has what it takes to be considered a “walkable” city.

Clinton, on the other hand, must face its Achilles heel to becoming a destination for visitors and locals alike: Highway 525.

Today, drivers get off the ferry, gun their engines to get up the hill and before they know it they’re at Ken’s Korner with Clinton disappearing in their rear view mirror.

But community planner Dan Burden knows what it takes to change all that: political will and the power of one or two committed people with a little clout who can make it happen.

“When I visit a town, I’m always hoping that one person gets the message. If I’m lucky it’ll be a mayor or city planner, someone who cares about the future of his community,” Burden said.

“In every case where positive change occurred, there were one or two people that were serious,” he said.

That was Burden’s message this week as he examined the nature of “place” on South Whidbey in Langley, Clinton, Bayview and Freeland.

“Creating a sense of discovery is vital if a community wants to be considered really livable,” Burden said. “Clinton has to develop that keen sense of arrival that says, ‘You can have a good time in Clinton.’”

Sponsored by Island County Public Health, Burden staged walkabouts and presented a compelling slide show in each island town that focused on convenience and connectivity.

“Dan is here to offer

recommendations on how to best create truly visitor and local-friendly environments,” said county public health agent Whitney Webber.

Earlier Monday, Burden told a group at Langley City Hall their city was on his list of the 100 most walkable towns in America.

“In many areas, like my home state of Florida, they dishonored their waterfronts,” he said. “Work is progressing to change that, but it takes time, money and vision.”

He said Langley must work to protect what it has by simply slowing down.

“To stay walkable, you must avoid any new road projects, focus on people and remember that speed is bad — speed on roads and speed in development. Use your own good instincts and conscience to show the way.”

Burden added that cities exist for the exchange of goods, services, products, culture, history, friendships and knowledge.

A city must have a downtown. Without one, there can be no “there,” and consequently, a lack of place.

“Think Lynnwood,” he said.

So what can Clinton, or any town, do to make changes that create a sense of place?

Burden said the list includes narrower streets (and no four-lane roads), slower speeds, bike lanes brightly marked, unpaved urban trails, overhead walkways, curb extensions, lots of trees and off-set buildings that promote pedestrian flow.

“You may want to consider a plan featuring one-way streets; the evidence shows they actually promote foot traffic once the expected opposition is won over,” Burden said.

On Tuesday, Burden offered his views after an examination of Freeland and Bayview.

“It’s up to them to decide in which direction their communities go now,” Burden said.

For more details on community planning, visit

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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